Posts tagged ‘Advanced Placement’

January 8, 2015

Testing out of classes can save money and time in getting your college degree

by Grace

Is this how most college degrees will be earned in the future?

… Emina Dedic of HackCollege used standardized tests to save a ton of money and get two degrees a year earlier than she would’ve otherwise.

After several years of going the traditional college route, Dedic found herself struggling financially.  In her research for options she “stumbled upon the concept of testing out of a degree”.

In the beginning, I was skeptical. I hadn’t heard of anyone in my day to day life who had used this method. I thought it was too good to be true, but after further investigation, I quickly realized this was a legitimate way to get college credit and speed up the graduation process.

I managed to take over 30 tests, for three college credits per class, each test costing me about 129 after administrative fees. Using the test-out method, I was able to obtain my AS in General Studies and BS in Psychology within the span of a year.

At the end of the day, I paid about one semester’s worth of tuition in order to obtain both degrees. The savings were extraordinary!…

She mainly used DSST (DANTES Subject Standardized Tests) and CLEP (College Level Examination Program) exams to earn enough credits to get her degree in psychology from Charter Oak State College in New Britain, Connecticut.  This non-traditional school offering online courses is not prestigious by any stretch of the imagination, but their alumni page shows that graduates have gone on to get advanced degrees from institutions like Harvard and Quinnipiac University.

A pragmatic approach

Dedic appears to be an ambitious person whose next move is teaching English overseas.  While her career path may take twists and turns instead of leading directly to a secure, well-paying job, that is also true for many graduates of traditional colleges who paid much more for their degrees.  And whether it’s AP or CLEP, most colleges allow students to save time and money by testing out of some courses.  Considering the limited amount of learning that goes on at college these days, this emphasis on credentialing may realistically be the best option for many students.

———

Tori Reid, “Ask Your Advisor How to Test Out of Classes and Get Your Degree Early”, Lifehacker, 12/31/14.

Emina Dedic, “How to Test Out and Get Your Degree Early”, HackCollege, 12/23/14.

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February 17, 2014

More students taking AP exams

by Grace

More high school students are taking AP exams, but the passing rate is lower.

  • 33.2 percent of public high school graduates in the class of 2013 took an AP Exam, compared to 18.9 percent of graduates in the class of 2003.
  • 20.1 percent of public high school graduates in the class of 2013 earned a 3 or higher on an AP Exam, compared to 12.2 percent of graduates in the class of 2003.

The goal of the AP program is to promote both equity and excellence in education.  This means increasing access to AP course work while also increasing the percentage of students earning scores of 3 or higher.

As would be expected, as more AP exams are taken passing rate has dropped.

2003:  61%  of AP exams had scores of 3 or higher
2013:  43%  of AP exams had scores of 3 or higher

These figures exclude those students who take AP courses but do not sit for the exam.  Not all schools follow the policy at our local high school, which requires students who take an AP course to also take the AP exam.

A campaign to help increase AP enrollment among academically prepared minority students

“All In” Campaign: Despite significant progress, African American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native students who show AP potential through the PSAT/NMSQT still typically enrolled in AP classes at lower rates than white and Asian students.

In order to help academically prepared but underserved students access the AP course work for which they are ready, the College Board is currently developing an “All In” campaign, a coordinated effort among College Board members to ensure that 100 percent of underserved students who have demonstrated the potential to succeed in AP take at least one AP course.

Related:  A glossary of high school standardized tests (Cost of College)

August 13, 2013

It’s not always possible to avoid college debt, but try anyway

by Grace

When Rebekah Bell wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal about how it’s possible to graduate from college debt-free, some people scoffed.  Bell is a freelance writer who recently graduated from Biola University, and here’s the essence of her advice.

Scout out scholarships, take courses online, use your skills to make money and get a summer job.

Dave Berry, CollegeConfidential Senior Contributing Editor, had this reaction.

Duh. Good luck with that.

Realistically, it’s almost impossible for many students to escape college debt.  With today’s high college costs, even following Bell’s common-sense recommendations may leave them with a funding gap that can only be met by borrowing.  Still, she did cover the bases on some essential ways to cut costs.

  • Look for scholarships/tuition discounting.  Maximize your merit aid opportunities by applying to schools where your statistics are in the top quarter of admitted students.
  • Take  online classes if you can; they’re often less expensive.
  • Start out your first year or two at community college.
  • Maximize college credits with AP courses, dual enrollment, and College-Level Examination Program (CLEP).
  • Earn money during college.  Working 10-20 hours a week is manageable for many students.
  • Look for paid summer internships.
  • Be frugal.

I would add that graduating in four or even three years makes a huge difference total college costs.  So taking advantage of AP credits and hustling to take all courses needed in time can amount to big savings.

Related:

February 27, 2013

Quick Links – Why women talk more than men; only 1 in 5 passed AP tests; most think accuracy in textbooks is secondary to political correctness

by Grace

◊◊◊  Why Women Talk More Than Men: Language Protein Uncovered (Science World Report)

You know all the times that men complain about women talking too much? Apparently there’s a biological explanation for the reason why women are chattier than men. Scientists have discovered that women possess higher levels of a “language protein” in their brains, which could explain why females are so talkative.

Previous research has shown that women talk almost three times as much as men. In fact, an average woman notches up 20,000 words in a day, which is about 13,000 more than the average man. In addition, women generally speak more quickly and devote more brainpower to speaking. Yet before now, researchers haven’t been able to biologically explain why this is the case.

Now, they can. New findings conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and published in The Journal of Neuroscience show that a certain protein may be the culprit.

◊◊◊  1 in 5 Passed Advanced Placement Tests (New York Times)

Nearly a third of the nation’s 2012 public high school graduates took at least one of the College Board’s Advanced Placement tests, according to the program’s annual report on Wednesday. Nearly one in five got a passing score — three or more, out of five — on one of the 34 subject exams. Last year was the first time in a decade that the average exam score increased from the previous year. The share of students earning at least a 3 also rose for the first time in that period, and the 14.2 percent earning a top score of five was also the highest in the decade.

This is not good news.  Schools are using precious resources to teach classes where only 20% of students get passing grades.  Apparently the course work is too demanding (or instruction is inadequate) for 80% of these students.  The other side to this argument is that it is a good thing to expose more students to the rigorous AP curriculum.

CORRECTION:  I misinterpreted the AP test article, which actually reports that 1 in 5 of all high school students (not just those who took the AP tests) got a passing score.  Thanks to the commenter who pointed this out!

◊◊◊  59% Think Most School Textbooks Put Political Correctness Ahead of Accuracy

Voters continue to believe that political correctness trumps accuracy in most school textbooks. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 16% of Likely U.S. Voters think most school textbooks are more concerned about accurately providing information. That’s down from 27% in March 2010. Fifty-nine percent (59%) think most textbooks are chiefly concerned with presenting information in a politically correct manner, consistent with attitudes for the past three years. Twenty-five percent (25%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Count me among that 59%.

February 13, 2013

Quick Links – High schools teach retail management; what colleges really want; property tax break for condos

by Grace

◊◊◊  Shopping center partners with Yonkers high schools to teach retail management skills

YONKERS — Lots of high school students get jobs at the mall. But 26 Yonkers students are about to learn the whole operation — which could lead to better jobs down the road.

The students are getting an inside look at the Ridge Hill shopping center, thanks to a new partnership between Forest City Ratner Companies, the center’s developer, and Yonkers Partners in Education, a private group working to better prepare Yonkers students for college and careers.

Over 10 weeks, the students will learn about multiple sides of retail management, from restaurant operations to security to marketing. They’ll meet with Ridge Hill managers and officials from Lord & Taylor, Whole Foods, the Cheesecake Factory, National Amusements Showcase and the Westmed Medical Group.

The project, called Ridge Hill Academy, comes with a three-year $100,000 grant from Forest City Ratner.

One aim is for students to be mentored by store employees.  During the first session, the importance of public relations was part of the lesson.  One of the students spoke at the press conference, and the group posed for pictures with Mayor Mike Spano and other officials.  Some of the students attend a vocational high school, and from the photos it appears most participating students are black or Hispanic.

‘Ridge Hill Academy’ to introduce Yonkers students to retail management (lohud.com)


◊◊◊  “AP Courses and Other Myths about What Colleges Really Want” – video sponsored by Massachusetts high school features panel of admissions administrators

I haven’t viewed the entire video,and it received mixed reviews from the comments on a CollegeConfidential thread .  We have a similar panel discussion each year at our local high school, but typically with representatives of lower ranked schools.  The emphasis is on trying to reduce the mystery and stress of the college admissions process.

Topic: “AP Courses and Other Myths about What Colleges Really Want” A Panel Discussion with Community Question & Answer Period

Admissions officers from five Massachusetts universities will tackle the stress over getting into college and talk about what they’re really seeking in a panel discussion for the Lexington community.

Getting into college is an obsession for many Lexington students and their parents – an obsession that starts as early as elementary school. For too many, it is assumed that college admissions offices admit students with the “most” – the most AP classes, the most extracurricular activities, the most summer internships and the like. The result is a lot of stressed out students and parents. But are they right – is this what college admissions directors are looking for?…

Panelists: Lee Coffin, Tufts University dean of undergraduate admissions; William Fitzsimmons, Harvard College dean of admissions; Kevin Kelly, UMass-Amherst’s director of admissions; John McEachern, Boston University’s director of admissions, and Stuart Schmill, MIT’s director of admissions.

The event is co-sponsored by the LHS PTSA, Diamond PTA, Clarke PTA, Lexington School Health Advisory Council (SHAC), Youth Services Council/Lexington Human Services Department and the Collaborative to Reduce Student Stress.


◊◊◊  In most New York municipalities, condo owners pay about one-third of the property taxes that single-family homeowners pay.

This special tax break rankles many homeowners who feel condo owners are not paying their fair share.

The property-tax system is based on the proposition that one’s real estate holdings get taxed equally, based on a percentage of the value of the real estate. According to New York law, however, condos are assessed for property-tax purposes as if they were rental units….

Single-family homes, meanwhile, are taxed on their fair market value — what they’d fetch in the open market. They pay taxes on the full value of their homes and end up subsidizing the condo owners who get the break.

Defenders of the tax break argue that condo owners are paying a fair percentage based on the smaller amount of land they occupy, while critics say that their use of government services is equivalent to those of single-family occupants.

Co-op owners receive a similar property tax break.  I live in a town with a relatively high percentage of co-op residents, so I see first-hand how this inequity increases taxes for some residents.

Tax Watch: Condos catch property-tax break (lohud.com)

December 21, 2012

K-12 online learning may be unproven, but it is on the rise

by Grace

After suffering bigger class sizes as the result of laying off about 95 teachers due to budget cuts, the Manchester New Hampshire school district is looking to add online classes.  Although the benefits are unclear, this is part of a trend that appears unstoppable.

Officials, seeking an overhaul, began to wonder if a 21st-century technology might help allay their struggles: having some students take courses online during the school day, without a teacher physically present.

But a plan to institute “blended learning labs,” which allow students to do just that, is stoking concern among parents and teachers. Some doubt the efficacy of online learning. Others say the proposed solution barely scratches the surface of systemic problems here.

Virtual labs and remote classrooms

The plan, which Superintendent Thomas J. Brennan Jr. presented to the district’s school board last month, would expand the district’s current use of New Hampshire’s online charter school, the Virtual Learning Academy, by putting a virtual learning lab in each of the district’s three high schools, allowing students to take courses there during the school day under the supervision of a “facilitator” who would be present in the lab. It would also add a remote classroom to each high school, where students in undersubscribed courses could participate in classes taught at one of the other schools via an interactive monitor, and expand the school’s collaboration with the University of New Hampshire at Manchester.

Online learning for high school students is on the rise.

Nearly 620,000 students took an online course during the 2011-2012 school year, up 16 percent from the previous year, according to an annual reportreleased this week by the Evergreen Education Group, which works with schools to implement online and blended learning programs.

A number of states and districts actually require students to take online classes as a condition of graduation.  One rationale is that this requirement helps prepare students for a future where online learning will be a standard part of higher education and employment.  While it appears inevitable that online education will move forward at all levels of education, conclusive evidence of how it’s working remains elusive.

At this point in the maturation of virtual education, the importance of high-quality, objective research is greater than ever. Education leaders need it to make informed decisions about how to use virtual education programs. But therein lies the problem: Very little high-quality, objective research on the subject is available.

K-12 online learning is a done deal.  As a practical matter, schools have “moved past” questioning whether it is better for students.

“Researchers and practitioners have moved past the question of ‘we need more research into whether this works,’ but I’m not sure the policymakers and legislators and the general media have,” he says.

What now needs answering, Watson says, are questions on how best to implement online learning and to determine which factors contribute to success. But that type of investigation can pose problems. With so many variations on how online learning is implemented—in hybrid forms, full-time virtual schools, supplemental online courses, courses with online instructors and without, and varying degrees of face-to-face support—it’s hard to do comparisons, Watson says.

“When you talk about research, people have an idea that you have a group of students with an online class, a control group, a random sample. …You really can’t do that” with online learning, he says. “There are far too many permutations, implementations, and instructional models.”

In my neighborhood
With continuing budget pressures arising from steeply rising pension costs, I predict online learning will soon be introduced in our local schools.  In a nearby district, low-income high schools will soon get access to ‘online and blended” AP courses.

Related:

December 12, 2012

Quick Links – online AP courses; no guilt about younger generation’s national debt burden; smartphones probably don’t improve academic achievement

by Grace

»»»  Low-income high schools in New York will get access to ‘online and blended” AP courses

BUFFALO — High school students in Yonkers and 16 other poor districts will have better access to advanced placement coursesunder a program featuring virtual classrooms.

The state Education Department this week said $17.3 million in federal Race to the Top Funds will be distributed to 17 districts or consortia of districts under the state’s Virtual Advanced Placement Program.

Education Commissioner John King says low-income students don’t always get the chance to take AP courses, which give students a leg up in their college applications. The 18-month grants will fund the development of online and blended courses that combine online and traditional classroom instruction.

Other districts receiving funding include New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Niagara Falls, Huntington and South Huntington.

Yonkers schools get virtual learning grants (lohud.com)


»»»  A baby boomer is feeling less guilty about leaving the younger generation with so much debt because, hey, it’s what the kids voted for.

From a  “50-something, white, conservative” Republican’s letter to the editor of Barron’s:

As reported by the national exit poll conducted by Edison Research, Americans aged 18 to 29 voted 60% to 36% for Barack Obama. Prior to Obama’s re-election, I believed that it was morally wrong for my generation to pass a crushing national debt on to the next one.

The debt will top $20 trillion before Obama moves out of the White House, and it will include spiraling retirement-related costs that the administration has shown zero interest in bringing under control, largely driven by baby boomers piling into the Social Security and Medicare systems.

With the president’s electoral crushing of Mitt Romney, my overriding sense of morality and guilt have vanished. Thank you, kids!


»»»  Hispanic and African-American students lag behind white students in academic achievement, but surpass them in using smartphones for homework.

That’s my takeaway from an article informing us that 1 in 3 middle-schoolers uses smart phones for homework.  Nowhere in the article was there any mention that using these digital devices actually improves academic achievement.

The national survey of 1,000 students in Grades 6 through 8 found that:

  • 39 percent use smartphones for homework.
  • 26 percent use smartphones at least weekly for homework.
  • 31 percent use tablets for homework.
  • 29 percent of those with household incomes under $25,000 use smartphones for homework.
  • Hispanics and African-Americans are more likely than whites to use smartphones for homework, at 49 percent, 42 percent, and 36 percent, respectively.
September 27, 2012

A glossary of high school standardized tests

by Grace

From Princeton Review, a glossary of standardized tests

AP (Advanced Placement): End of year, college level exams that are used for admissions purposes at just a few competitive schools (the Ivies, Berkeley, UCLA, USC), and to give students college credit at virtually every college and university. The scoring grid goes from 1-5 (higher is better), with 3 representing a passing score. These tests are traditionally given at a student’s high school during the second and third weeks of May. ACT: An alternative to the SAT. This test tends to reward students who are better in reading and grammar than they are in math. The ACT is the dominant college entrance exam in the Midwest and the South, and is scored on a 1-36 basis (the average score is about 21 or 22). The best time to take this test is in February or April of the junior year and/or September of the senior year. The practice ACT is called the PLAN. To sign up for the actual ACT, go to http://www.act.org.

PSAT: An excellent practice test for the SAT that has absolutely nothing to do with college admissions. Rather it serves the following functions. It is a strong window into your testing soul — if you do well on the PSAT, you are likely to do equally well on the SAT. Very good testers can achieve National Merit stardom, a scholarship contest that is predominantly linked to PSAT scores from the junior year of PSAT testing. Finally, when you sign up for the PSAT, you will be given the chance to join the Student Search Service through which your name will be released to colleges and you will receive ridiculous amounts of junk mail from colleges that both interest and horrify you. The PSAT is offered at your school during the second week or the third Saturday of October and you must sign up for this test through your high school. There is no essay or Algebra II on the PSAT and it’s about half the length of the SAT.

SAT: The grande dame of admissions tests and you know it all too well. The SAT is popular in the West and the East, and is scored from 600-2400. The average score is about a 1560, a good score is anything over 1800, and 2200+ is the number for the most ridiculously competitive schools. The SAT has Math, Reading and Writing sections, includes some Algebra II and an essay, and can be taken 2-3 times since colleges only count students’ highest scores. To sign up to take the actual SAT, you go to http://www.collegeboard.com.

Subject Tests: The Subject Tests are one hour, multiple choice exams that focus on individual subjects. Until recently, these used to be called the SAT II exams. Subject Tests are offered in Biology (Ecology or Molecular), Chemistry, Physics, World History, US History, Math Level I (not accepted by the UC but is accepted by private colleges), Math Level 2, English Literature and a host of foreign languages. These are of some significance in elite private college admissions, and can be submitted to UC schools to show strength in a subject where perhaps your grade is a little soft. If you are fluent in a foreign language, then take the Language with Listening Subject Test on the first Saturday in November. The test is offered in French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Korean and Chinese. You will need to bring a portable CD player with headphones with you to the testing center. You may take up to three Subject Tests in one day (although we wouldn’t recommend it – it’s pretty tiring), and each Subject Test is scored on the 200-800 scale. A good score is 600+, and a great score is anything over 700. To sign up to take the actual Subject Tests, you go to http://www.collegeboard.com.

Related:  A recommended schedule for taking the SAT, ACT, and AP tests (Cost of College)

May 29, 2012

A recommended schedule for taking the SAT, ACT, and AP tests

by Grace

The Princeton Review published a High School Testing Timeline, with recommendations for when to take what tests.  Keep in mind that PR is in the business of selling test prep.

Here are key parts of the Princeton Review Timeline, with brief explanations of our local high school’s approach* to testing posted in blue text:

THE FRESHMAN YEAR

The Princeton Review philosophy is to not take tests during the first year in high school. We don’t even think it’s a good idea to take a PSAT as a 9th grader, because the scores seem to create more, not less, stress for the freshmen and their families. The one consistent exception to this is if a freshman is doing very well in her (or his) 9th grade Biology class, and is planning to take AP Biology before the end of the Junior year. If these two factors are in place, then we think it is a good idea for that student to take the Biology Subject Test (formerly known as the SAT II) in Ecology.

Our Local School —
Similar to above, except that many accelerated science students take AP Environmental Science in eighth or ninth grade as an alternative to biology.

THE SOPHOMORE YEAR

October: Take the PSAT or the PLAN
These tests during the sophomore year are opportunities for risk free practice that should not be missed. We do not recommend intensive preparation …

May: If you are in an AP class, then you will have the chance to take the AP in May. Some students take an AP class, but then do not take the AP exam. You do not want to be one of these students. College admissions people tend to frown upon students from AP classes who duck out on taking the AP exam.

June: Take any appropriate Subject Test
Traditionally, if a Sophomore is going to take a Subject Test in the 10th grade, it will be in either World History or Chemistry….

Our Local School —
Similar to above, with the opportunity to take the PLAN only recently becoming an option.  I’m glad they now offer the PLAN because it sets the stage for taking the ACT, which is a better choice than the SAT for some students.  Students taking AP classes are required to take the AP exam.

SUMMER BETWEEN THE 10TH AND 11TH GRADE YEAR

If you have the time, the inclination and the resources, this is the time frame best suited for test preparation. The students have learned the vast majority of the material that will appear on the SAT (and if they’ve completed Algebra II, they’ve learned all of it), and it’s a considerably less stressful time to be doing this work….

Our Local School —
Most students are advised to defer any test prep until after they’ve taken the SAT in their junior year.  According to guidance counselors, at that point a student will be in a better position to decide if he wants or needs tutoring.

JUNIOR YEAR

While many different scheduling strategies can satisfy individual student’s needs, the majority of students fall into two distinct categories: “Aggressive” and “Regulars”.

AGGRESSIVE
(Includes high academic achievers, kids with proactive parents, students who had a lot of time to prepare during the previous summer but who anticipate being extremely busy in the spring, students who want to try to achieve some flavor of National Merit status, very weak testers who may need extended preparation to achieve acceptable scores, and students who will apply as Early Decision candidates).
October – SAT followed by PSAT (may not be appropriate for weaker testers)
November – Language listening subject tests for native speakers
Winter – Refresher preparation
Mar – The second crack at the SAT, if necessary
April – Try the ACT
May – AP’s/Subject Tests
June – Subject Tests

REGULARS
Sep/Oct – Light prep (PSAT Clinic)
October – PSAT
Fall/Winter – Intensive prep (can do extended prep starting in November or begin in January, both in preparation for the March/April test in either the SAT or the ACT)
May/June – Subject Tests (if needed) or a second attempt at the SAT

Our Local School —
Similar to above recommendations on Subject and AP tests, but less aggressive on other testing matters.  Our high school generally recommends waiting until the spring of junior year to first take the SAT, followed by the ACT if the SAT score was lower than desired.  On the subject of test prep, our school appears slightly schizophrenic in their outlook.  Guidance counselors do not recommend extensive test prep for the vast majority of students, but the school administration sends the message that the highest test scores are the result of test tutoring.  My guesstimate is that at least half the students pay for some type of test prep.

SENIOR YEAR

The Senior year can become complicated because it is so late in the cycle, and the permutations are very dependent upon the individual student. From the broadest perspective, if you’re “Aggressive”, then October should be your last ACT/SAT/Subject Test attempt. The “Regular” students may take these exams up to, and including, December of their senior year and still make it in time for most colleges’ admission deadlines (including the UC schools).

Our Local School —
Similar to above, with a general recommendation to complete testing sooner rather than later.

* This is based on my experience and observations, so I make no claim that this is a comprehensive representation of their official policy.

Related:  College application timeline

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