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AP Students earn success

POSTED: October 9, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Richmond Hill High School offers eight different Advanced Placement courses on-site for students and many additional courses are offered on-line through the College Board. AP courses are both fast-paced and intellectually challenging, and such courses allow students the opportunity to earn college credits while still in high school. Highly motivated students choose to take these college-level courses for a myriad of reasons; many thrive on the stimulating coursework, while others have set goals to be accepted into some of the most prestigious universities in the country. Universities favor the applications of students who have chosen to take the most challenging curriculum.

The College Board oversees all AP courses and requires that all teachers teaching such courses have an approved syllabus. In fact, each teacher must have an approved syllabus before the College Board will allow the AP logo to be placed on school documents, including official transcripts. Thus, the course descriptions are specific and the requirements are quite rigorous on each syllabus. The syllabus must outline not only what will be taught, but how the curriculum will be taught, and how the students will be assessed. Every AP teacher at RHHS has a College Board approved syllabus in place and adheres to these strict standards, which includes the grading policy.

The Bryan County Board of Education provides a description of the grading policy for all students in all grades in the Student Handbook. In addition, the grading policy is explained in the school profile for both high schools, which is provided to universities on student transcripts. Richmond Hill High School must stipulate that grades are not weighted because a number of in-state and out-of-state universities approach admission requirements differently. For example, the University of Georgia only weights grades for students coming from schools whose profile notates the non-weighting of grades. If a school does weight grades, then UGA does not then double-weight grades. It would be an ethical violation to disclose that a school does not weight grades and then automatically add points only to AP courses.

In addition, many students take AP courses on-line, and none of the on-line courses weight grades. A student earns a final grade based on the same grading policy. Richmond Hill High School does not pad grades or create a cushion because doing so would be an act of grade inflation, tarnishing the reputation the school has for academic integrity. Students who expect bonus points often do not prepare as well as students who know they must earn every point on their own. Adding points to grades creates an unrealistic expectation of what is in store for them in college, which ultimately has a negative impact on college performance. Students who learn study skills, time management skills, and higher-level thinking skills in high school are better prepared for academic success in college. They also develop a work ethic that will transcend into all aspects of their lives. Students thus should be choosing to take AP courses for the experience and knowledge gained and not because they expect to have free points added. Universities do not add points to more challenging courses, and an AP course is a college course.

Teachers, all teachers, have the prerogative to monitor student achievement daily. Teachers fairly adjust assignments and assessments when warranted to ensure the validity of all assessments and the accuracy of all grades. If a student earns an A in an AP course, a course he/she chose to take, then a correlating score on the AP exam must be expected. If not, then the student’s grade is inflated and does not accurately reflect achievement.

Teachers strive to prepare students for success not just in high school, but in all future endeavors. Success is earned and not given. Students at Richmond Hill High School choose to earn their success.

Written by Dr. Aimée Taylor, curriculum resource teacher, AP coordinator, and AP literature and composition teacher at Richmond Hill High School.

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