Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fewer students taking Advanced Placement tests

This probably doesn't rank as a big shocker, but it appears fewer Charlotte-Mecklenburg high school students will be taking the Advanced Placement tests for college credit this spring. Many would say that stands to reason, since cash-strapped CMS has opted not to pay the $87 testing fee on behalf of students this year. (The state pays for low-income students).

CMS estimates that about 9,800 students will be taking the tests at the end of this school year, including 2,500 being paid for through a grant to the state to cover economically disadvantaged kids. That 9,800 figure is down from the 13,362 AP tests administered by CMS in 2009-10.

Could it be that there are just fewer kids enrolled this year in AP classes? Nope. Last year there were about 12,700. This year there's about 13,000. (I know it looks like there are more tests administered last year than there were students in the classes, but some International Baccalaureate students could have taken the tests, or AP students might have taken tests multiple times seeking higher scores).

Students and parents have told the Observer the fees pose a big financial burden, especially to students taking heavy AP courseloads. Chris Cobitz, head of testing for CMS, said it was more likely due to students who might have "stretched" to try AP classes, and now don't feel confident about taking the test since they have to pay for it.

I tend to suspect more the former, myself. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Instead of "suspecting" anything, why not go into some school and investigate why students are not taking the tests?

Anonymous said...

What percentage of the tests taken last year had passing scores?

Too much assumption in this article.

Anonymous said...

Taking the AP tests at $87 a pop is still cheaper than paying for college classes. My daughter started college with 24 credit hours that can be applied towards classes required for graduation.

Anonymous said...

just another part of the racket that is the education system in the USA

Anonymous said...

Why would you take the test? You get the inflated GPA, without actually have to back it up. AP exams are given no weight in the admissions process and probably hurt you at more "selective" schools.

Wiley Coyote said...

Let me go ahead and spout off my usual diatribe about the fact CMS has no clue as to who the truly "disadvantaged" are.

Yet here we go again getting grant monies to cover tests.

There is a group at this moment trying to raise "private funds" to keep middle school sports and the man behind the push says $50 and $100 dollars is way too low and needs to be increased. He cites league costs as a comparison but to me there is no comparison, since one is public school sports and the other is a choice for parents to pay the exorbitant cost for their kid to play outside of school.

One school district that implemented high fees to play sports found students transferring out to other districts where there were no fees or they were much lower.

The decline in students who are not paying to take the AP tests is an indication of things to come.

If you're able to get designated as ED based on whatever loose criteria CMS uses and right now there are over 74,000 with such a designation, you get a lot of things for free while a smaller group has to pay.

...And some wonder why there is a huge divide within CMS regarding such issues.

...All the while that big, fat elephant in the room sits back laughing in between munching on peanuts.

In case one clueless Board Member is reading, here's some of the data you claim I'm getting incorrect:

Lunch data debate growing

By Ann Doss Helms
Posted: Sunday, Jan. 02, 2011

With millions of dollars riding on school-poverty data and massive cuts looming for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, a long-running debate over the validity of those numbers is resurfacing.

CMS recently announced that just over 74,000 kids, or 53 percent of all students, are getting federal lunch subsidies for low-income families this year.

Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/01/02/1949537/lunch-data-debate-growing.html#ixzz1HS7ILfIL

What the numbers above don't tell you is that CMS makes 97,000 lunches per day, which means 76.3% get the FRL benefit while 23.7% have to pay for their lunch.

therestofthestory said...

Wiley, facts confuse most of the BOE members!

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much of it is due to fewer colleges/universities offering credit for the scores. Many schools may use the score for placement, but not credit. Some universities give credit only for 5's, the highest score. Perhaps some students feel that if they get a 4 it hasn't been worth the money.

Anonymous said...

Couple of points... First, since students are no longer required to take the test and many colleges don't accept the credit, why bother? Second, I don't think you can take a test multiple times to better your score. They are offered once per year at a specific time nationwide. You can't take a make-up if you took the first one. Might want to re-check that assumption.

Trent Merchant said...

WC - The most interesting part of your numbers about the lunch program isn't that most people get free or reduced price lunch. It is that most "full-pay" students do not participate at all. We have kept the price of lunch the same - but that doesn't really matter for free or reduced price lunches, only for full-price. And according to the numbers you cited, a little over 60% of the potential paying customers aren't buying. With such a low price, one might wonder if the perceived product quality is the issue in the decisions that kids/families make about value. That's part of the reason I support looking at outsourcing foodservice, at least in schools with low full-pay participation.

Anonymous said...

A large portion of students take AP classes in the CMS system shouldn't be in AP classes at all. The fact that they won't pay for a failing test grade is proof of that. Two years ago more than 30% of CMS students failed the AP test. It's just a way for CMS to promote failing schools, they report the number of students in the AP classes but not the number that pass the test.

Anonymous said...

Many colleges don't accept AP scores - even if a student scores a 5.

So why bother to pay and take an AP test if you are applying to a college that doesn't accept AP scores? Generally speaking, the better the college, the less likely AP scores are accepted.

Also, aren't overall CMS AP pass rates low to begin with? When is an AP course really an AP course if only a handful of students are passing the test?

Of course, if we simply make students take more standardized tests (like the 52 pay-for-performance tests in the works costing a measly 2 million bucks) than I'm sure this will solve the AP problem with students soaring to new and improved academic heights.

Trent - Mr. Wake Forest - I don't think your alma mater accepts AP scores and ACT and SAT scores are now optional which is why it makes perfect sense for you to support more standardized testing for CMS K-12 students.

How did we get on the subject of outsourcing food services? People, let's stay on topic, shall we?

Wiley Coyote said...


You're right. 135,000 students, 97,000 lunches, 38,000 not buying lunches, which means they don't eat or bring their own. 23,000 paying full price.

My son eats full price lunches but there are days he doesn't eat lunch at all.

If outsourcing the lunch program can save us money and the quality is better, I'm all for it.

Would CMS still do the paperwork as to who "qualifies" for lunch subsidies?

The crux of my overall argument still goes back to the fact CMS has no clue as to how many students truly qualify for the lunch program and that many things like sports, lunches and testing depend heavily on the number one way or the other.

I contend we're wasting millions thorughout the system that could be redirected to other areas in need because of faulty data.

And by the way, I don't think you've ever questioned my posted data. If I ever do post something incorrect, by all means let me know.


Wiley Coyote said...

Anon said...

How did we get on the subject of outsourcing food services? People, let's stay on topic, shall we?

Because potentially 60% of the students getting FREE AP/IB tests, FREE sports and FREE lunches don't qualify for them.

That's how.

Anonymous said...

"As with transfer work, each department at Wake Forest sets its own policy regarding Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) and dual-enrollment credit."

Anonymous said...

OK Wiley, than start your own blog on the topic of outsourcing food services.

I believe today's prompt is, "Fewer students taking Advanced Placement tests". In 500 words or less, please.

Anonymous said...

Many colleges aren't accepting AP credit; many others' policies are "under review." Why put oneself through the rigors of the class and shell out hundreds of dollars for the tests only to have the college of your choice say, "sorry!"

Anonymous said...

Most states do NOT pay for AP testing. Nice of NC to catch up...

Anonymous said...

Wiley, I'm trying to help you!

Since education is all about teaching to the test, by allowing you to go and wander off topic CMS will deem me as an unqualified and ineffective teacher therefore making me ineligible for performance pay. Now, don't draw outside the little bubbles with your #2 pencil on your bubble sheet test. This is very bad.

WashuOtaku said...

I remember before I took the AP US History test that my teacher was actually encouraging me not to take it because he didn't want me to get depressed if I didn't get a high enough score. I took it anyway since I wasn't paying for it.

Anonymous said...

I don't know where some of you are coming up with "most colleges don't accept AP courses". My son graduated last year from CMS and got early acceptance to all universities he applied to. He is now in his second semester, and due to his AP classes in HS, is classified as a sophomore, since he got credit for those courses. Yes you have to make a 4 or 5 on the exam.. So? It's college level duh.

Anonymous said...

I hope your son had taken the test and you negotiated his Japanese language skills with whatever university or military branch as a Junior. We visited my son's school and auditioned for music and his (immersion) foreign language. Accepted on both, twelve hours gratis on the language. Negotiation and choice are the keys. Skipping past the rif-raf to junior status as a major is like avoiding the unconcerned at most CMS high schools.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 7:38...

Right now I'm just trying to get him through this ridiculous senior exit project that his teacher(s) have no clue about.

He's taking AP Government and will take the test.

Currently working with the Air Force on issues related to his language skills.

Anonymous said...

At least your son is leaving. Think of that school less 500 students and the loss of teachers(some necessary, others with bogus observations.) The senior exit project has always been a "mystery" at WM. Just finding adults capable of interpreting real projects has been an interesting proposition. I remember it well.

Anonymous said...

6:50 PM

If you do your research, you'll discover many colleges don't accept any AP courses for credit even if a student scores a 5. This is a fact.

It's nice your son applied and was accepted to colleges that do.

Anonymous said...

AP College Credit Con #1 – Not all colleges will accept AP credit

Some unsuspecting students will be surprised to find that their classes are not as readily accepted by universities as they thought they would be. This includes many Ivy level colleges. Elite colleges sometimes will claim that some high schools’ AP level courses are not as rigorous as their own; therefore they won’t accept the credits.

There are also colleges claiming they can’t afford to let students with AP credits advance an entire semester or year without having stepped foot on campus. So they simply just reject all AP credits.

High schools are also getting in on the act of misusing the AP program. Some schools are teaching to the test, which causes inflated AP score averages. This scenario effectively churns out kids with AP credit who don’t necessarily have a deep knowledge level of the subject.

Anonymous said...

Senior Exit Project? Don't worry, CMS is designing a pay-for-performance standardized test for this too!

Concerning the AP U.S. Government and Politics test..

How would Jesus do? Probably not well on an AP Roman Empire Government and Politics test administered under Pontius Pilate. Take comfort knowing this.

Anonymous said...

My child received a "C" in one AP class before scoring a 5 on the national AP exam. He received an "A" in a different AP class only to score a 2 which isn't considered passing.

Is it any surprise some colleges don't accept AP scores?

How many parents bold enough to cheat the FRL system are actually encouraging their children to take AP classes - as we're making up "woe is victimized me" excuses for fewer kids taking the tests? Is there a correlation between poverty and the number of students enrolled in AP classes? In other words, what is the percentage of higher income kids enrolled in AP classes vs. the number of low income kids enrolled in AP classes? Low income kids don't have to pay for AP exams, correct? Just as they don't have to pay to take the ACT or SAT which is fine with me for those who truly qualify for free aid.

Should CMS pay for ACT and SAT tests for everyone too? How about CMS paying college application fees which run around $50 - $65 a pop? Better yet, maybe CMS can pick up every graduate's college tuition bill. To be completely equitable and fair, I think Harvard should accept every applicant. Those who can't add 2 + 2 should be entitled to a participation trophy.

Anonymous said...

Which, of course, lead to the "Where's my trophy?" syndrome over the last thirty years.

Anonymous said...

"Students and parents have told the Observer the fees pose a big financial burden, especially to students taking heavy AP courseloads."

I believe that CMS was the only system in the state (and probably one of the few in the nation) that paid for everyone's AP exams (and I'm not certain but I think they may have required everyone taking the course to take the test), so if parents are feeling burdened by having to pay, I'm afraid that they are now just like most other parents of AP students throughout the country. I was very surprised to find that CMS paid for the tests, as we had paid for our older children's AP tests in other school systems. I will also have to say, though, that in the other school system AP was truly for the very top students--it wasn't used to "stretch" students. There were rigorous honors classes to do that. I'm afraid that AP, like everything else, has become PC--supposedly everyone is equally capable of taking the courses no matter what their academic standing or interests.

I would tend to agree with CMS that students who don't feel confident about their abilities to do well on the exam are probably deciding not to take it because of the fee--and that may well be a wise decision. As someone noted we need to see the pass rates for years past when all were taking the test.

Also, anonymous who said you can't take the test multiple times in one year--I'm not sure if you could come back and take the test again the next year. But you can take the test without taking the course (and not just IB students do this).

I hope that this issue does not turn into another negative Observer education article, without all of the facts being fully presented.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:01 again--I should have said that I agree with anonymous who said you can't take the test multiple times in one year. You sign up and pay ahead of time for the test.

Anonymous said...

I don't know where some of you are coming up with "most colleges don't accept AP courses". My son graduated last year from CMS and got early acceptance to all universities he applied to. He is now in his second semester, and due to his AP classes in HS, is classified as a sophomore, since he got credit for those courses. Yes you have to make a 4 or 5 on the exam.. So? It's college level duh."

Well that makes sense they accepted the AP scores. Top level schools (that often don't take AP credits) request you only apply to one school early. So either, your kid is in a bad school, or he's dishonest.

Anonymous said...

Oh Thanks! I'll be sure to let my son know that he and his fellow POB graduates - the ones attending Carolina, NC State, Virgina Tech, Princeton, Wake, Wellman, WCU and Harvard And Duke - that they are all in BAD schools! And they must be dishonest to boot!!! Shame on them for taking those AP classes and applying to bad schools!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else find it a bit of a problem that Eric, an Observer reporter (not an opinion columnist) who is currently covering education, is making a judgment about why students are not taking as many AP tests (He says "I tend to suspect more the former, myself" when comparing parental and CMS comments about this). If the Observer is going to do a story about paying for AP, then their reporters should not be making opinionated comments like that ahead of time--certainly would taint the reporting, I think (this has happened with other issues as well). Also, if they do such a story they certainly should include prominently the info that very few school systems pay for all of their students to take the test--don't make CMS look like the bad guys on this one. They actually went above and beyond for many years.

Anonymous said...

An admissions officer at a college located in Washington D.C. flat out told a crowd of students and parents,

"Do not send us your AP scores. We do not accept them. Any of them. We don't care if you scored a 5".

My son will be attending a college next year that accepts AP scores that are a 4 or a 5. They may accept a 3 in AP Physics but my son never took AP Physics.

So please, let's not attack each other over which colleges our kids attend that don't and do accept AP scores because this may have no baring on the quality of education a student receives since colleges don't standardize test themselves to determine if they're providing an effective education for the tuition they charge. And here in lies the hypocrisy.

Put the blame where it belongs. On the College Board and ETS testing industry where executives make hundreds of thousands of dollars designing and administering the standardized madness.

Wiley Coyote said...

Here is a link that shows BY STATE what they pay or don't pay.


Federal & State AP Exam Fee Assistance

The fee for each AP Exam in 2011 is $87, with schools retaining an $8 rebate per exam. For each AP Exam taken by students from low-income families, the College Board will provide a $22 fee reduction and schools are expected to forgo the $8 administration fee; thus, the AP Exam fee for qualifying students is $57 per exam.

How does a student qualify for the College Board's fee reduction?

The College Board follows the economic-need guidelines created by the federal government. See Fee Reductions for AP Exams for information about eligibility criteria and the procedure for claiming College Board fee reductions for AP Exams. All students who meet the eligibility criteria are entitled to the College Board's $22 fee reduction for each AP Exam they take.

What additional federal and state fee reductions are available for students in my state?

Each state determines whether or not students qualifying for the College Board's fee reduction are eligible for additional fee reductions through federal and state grants.

Here is one statement that is in all of the requirements:

What the school must do:

Before the exams:

In the AP Exam Ordering Website, enter the total number of students whom your school can attest fulfill the federal criteria to receive fee reductions for low-income students, and the total number of exams that will be taken by these students.

Again, I point out that CMS and other school districts have no clue as to how many students actually qualify for ED status.

So taxpayers and those who are forced to pay for the tests where applicable wind up subsidizing some students who get free testing but don't qualify.

Here are a couple of states:

The State of Alabama will pay $57 per AP Exam for public school students qualifying for the College Board fee reduction.
Final AP Exam fee for qualifying students: $0

The state of California will use federal funds to pay a portion of the AP Exam fee for public school students. Students who qualify for the Federal Free and/or Reduced Meal program are eligible for the College Board fee reduction. For these students, the state of California will pay up to $52 per AP Exam, depending on availability of federal funds.
Final Fee per AP Exam for qualifying students: $5

The State of Illinois will pay $57 per AP Exam for public and private school students qualifying for the College Board fee reduction.
Final AP Exam fee for qualifying students: $0

North Carolina
The state of North Carolina will pay $57 per AP Exam for public school students qualifying for the College Board fee reduction.
Final AP Exam fee for qualifying students: $0

Anonymous said...

With all do respect (for those who can afford it), shut up and pay up for your kid's AP tests. I swear to God, my doctor complained about having to pay for his kid's AP tests. Give me a break.

Again, perhaps the Observer should complain CMS isn't covering the cost of SAT's, ACT's, GRE's, LSAT's, MCAT's, college admission fees, tuition bills, coin operated dorm laundry costs, that study abroad program, your daughter's wedding and so forth. You'd rather retire early and take a year long cruise around the world? Than don't have kids. They cost money. Lots of money. Darn critters.

Anonymous said...

Who's picking up the tab for my son's prom since their self-esteem is on the line and they could be crowed prom queen which counts as extra quality points on the diversity scale at places like Hampshire College, Wesleyan University and perhaps Wake Forest which recently added a gay, lesbian and transgender student club in an effort to be perceived as less preppy and more cutting edge 30 decades after everyone else?

I would think being crowned prom queen by your peers also qualifies as a bon-a-fide leadership position on most college applications. Wesleyan has a school funded C-nt Club for women with special toy demonstrations- just like Northwestern! You know, because it's important for women to empower themselves in the realms of higher education. Imagine the poor father paying for his daughter to be president of this club? Wondering how one would parlay this leadership position on their resume?

Here's a thought...

Since most high school seniors already know which colleges they've been accepted to and which do and don't accept AP scores, is it possible some students may simply be opting out of AP exams to help pay for senior graduation trips to Myrtle Beach?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

The state of Illinois will pay $57 for public AND private school students who qualify for a fee reduction to take AP tests?

You better watch yourself, Wiley. This is an extremely sensitive topic for private school parents here in Charlotte who pay for AP tests every year on top of public school taxes.

Trust me, the Observer doesn't want to hear what private school parents think about CMS students having to pay for AP tests.

Charlotte Charter Schools?
Do these students have to pay for AP tests? Do low-income charter school students get to take AP tests free? Since charter schools are public schools funded by NC state taxpayers, shouldn't they be entitled to the same financial entitlements and benefits as CMS students? Eric?

Anonymous said...

Colleges do not necessarily award credit for AP courses because they don’t believe that AP courses are equivalent to their own courses. Before you take an AP course, check the policy of your individual college of choice and see where they stand.

There is concern among many college officials that, by skipping over introductory courses with AP credit, students can plunge themselves into advanced courses that they just can’t handle. That situation can lead to unnecessary struggles and eventual dropout.

Colleges consider AP credit very carefully, and may give credit for some AP courses but not others. For example, a college may not credit students with freshman-level English for an AP English Literature and Composition course, because the administration has decided that AP credit is not sufficient preparation for college-level writing. They merely want to ensure that all students start off with a strong writing foundation—so they choose to require all students to take theircollege English.

On the other hand, that same college may award credit for AP Psychology and Art History.

Which AP Courses Are Most Risky?

There are a few common reasons that colleges don’t give credit for certain AP courses. You can use this list as a guideline when you research AP requirements at your college of choice.

Colleges may require World History as a core area, so students who take American History and European History AP courses and expect credit could be out of luck.
Colleges may not award credit for AP lab science courses.
Some colleges limit the number of AP credits each student will receive. If you have five "5s" you may have to choose two or three that you want to use as credit.
Some colleges incorporate state history or state government into their own US history and government courses. For this reason, the US Government and Politics AP class would not include equivalent material. You could end up with elective credit.
Some of the courses that are offered as AP courses simply don't appear in a certain college's curriculum. For example, if Latin Literature is not offered at a college, that college won't award graduation credit for that AP test.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking that these smart AP students are doing their research and finding out if the universities they are applying to will take their AP scores. If the school doesn't way pay for the test? Universities like seeing AP classes on transcripts, so I would encourage my kids to take them regardless if thet take the test. It shows they want to challenge themselves.

CMS paid for AP tests and PSATs for all students not too long ago. I haven't heard of another district doing this. That was very generous.

Anonymous said...

As an AP teacher...

a. it is true that there are students who take AP classes who really shouldn't just for the GPA bump, but at the same time...they are taking the course...a much harder course than an Honors class (or at least it SHOULD be)... Many college freshmen have to take remediation courses because the HS coursework has been so watered down by politicians... AP classes prepare students for a level of expectation very well...

b. finances are a factor...especially for students taking multiple AP courses and for kids taking IB and AP classes...they have to pay for IB courses as well...

c. test scores don't come back until July anyway...there is no way the score can impact a student's course grade.... CMS has now implemented that ALL students take an exam as their final--even if they take the AP exam...so, my AP Lang kids will take the AP exam on May 11th, then have to take the CMS created AP Lang exam for their final (which counts in their grade)... which, as there are only 2 released AP Lang exams out there... this CMS incarnation of an AP exam should be vastly entertaining to say the least---it truly frightens me as I know I have used both released tests from the College Board already as practice... and really, have you seen the tests CMS creates--- BWAHAHAHAHAHA

d. the test should not be the goal... the learning should be... but, if you need to know... MPHS had a 90% pass rate on AP Lang & Comp exams... that's 180 out of 200 students scoring a 3 or higher... not too shabby.

e. I always tell students to check what scores their colleges will accept... if you are looking at a Carolina or Duke, they only take 5's...and a 5 is not the easiest to come by... and some schools will take them and still make you take the Freshman Comp course...

All in all... families are making tough choices right now due to finances...you can't fault a family that technically makes too much for the waiver, for opting out of the AP test(s)... Some kids aren't great test takers and while they grew leaps and bounds as scholars by taking the class...they won't perform well on the test... there are so many variables.

The next story should be about how CMS is losing so many teachers that AP course offerings are being dramatically slashed... that would be a more useful exploration.

Anonymous said...

It is more so the School District taking advantage of AP for it’s status than the students. Teacher’s have asked for years to have more say so in students approval for Advance classes, because they have more of an understanding of student’s work ethics ,and more knowledge of prerequisite courses needed to help them be more successful. However, with schools receiving high rankings based on the number of AP enrollments, and Districts receiving some funding for students enrolled in Special Education classes, the number of AP student enrollment is inflated beyond the readiness level. AP teachers are struggling to get all students meeting the true standards. Therefore, few teachers are interested in being certified to teach AP classes. Some students have figured out that they can enroll to boost their GPAs without passing, and others know this year you do not have to take the AP finals and can still pass the class. They have opted not to pay, do enough to pass, and automatically get a higher GPA. Also you would be surprised how many students have had a turn-over of AP teachers so far this year. No way are they going to pay for and take a test for which they are not properly prepared.

Anonymous said...

A group of students at a school I substitute at refused to answer questions on an AP science test last year and instead wrote essays apologizing to the College Board for not being adequately prepared to take the test because (according to these students) their teacher didn't teach them anything. I'm not making this up.

The kids told me they couldn't answer any of the questions on the test.

I seriously doubt any of these students would have paid $87.00 to take this particular AP test last year. They all knew they weren't prepared to take the test before they even looked at it. But I'm sure CMS's pay-for-performance model will fix this problem since they are in the process of creating their own standardized science test in addition to NC state's mandated EOC science test to evaluate teacher effectiveness. It will be interesting to see if NC state test results, CMS test results and AP test results correlate.

To reiterate what has already been posted several times, some colleges only accept scores of 4's and 5's or only 5's and some colleges don't accept any AP scores at all. My son will be attending a college that accepts only 4's and 5's with some subjects dependent on department approval. In some cases, students don't receive any college credit for AP scores but colleges will use them for placement purposes depending on the subject and what a student is majoring in. Some colleges that do accept AP scores only allow students to select one or two AP classes for credit. In other words, a student can score 5's on 12 AP tests but colleges will only allow them to select 2 AP classes for credit or placement purposes.

The question we should be asking is why was CMS paying for all of these tests to begin with especially considering the system's low pass rate? Also, some expensive private schools are starting to ditch some AP classes and restoring traditional Honors classes that colleges have promised and reassured schools will not affect admission decisions.

The AP teacher on this post is correct. A student can earn an A taking a AP class (bumping up their GPA) while still scoring a 2 (which is not considered passing) on an AP exam since AP scores aren't released until July.