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Attleboro's AP - Math

An honest and balanced look at Attleboro's AP math program.

So today I’m going to take a hard look at Attleboro’s Advanced Placement math offerings looking at the trending over the past 3 years.  For each of these three years (2010-2012) there were three AP math courses offered, AP Statistics, AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC.

Let’s break each one down separately.

STATISTICS

Here are the results broken down by national final exam grade for the past three years:

 

Statistics

5

4

3

2

1

% Pass

% Fail

Total

2012

3

6

28

13

5

67.3

32.7

55

2011

3

9

13

13

10

52.1

47.9

48

2010

2

6

9

5

3

68.0

32.0

25

So, back in 2010 we had only 25 students taking the course with effectively 1 out of 3 students receiving what is considered a failing score of 1 or 2 on the national final exam.  Three of these students received a 1 (which is considered by most as an indication that the student was not prepared to take this college level course).  But still, almost 70% receiving a passing final exam score, with 8 of 25 receiving either a 4 or 5 is not too bad, considering. 

In 2011 the number of students taking this course jumped up to 48, a surprising increase of 23, almost doubling the number of students.  This increase resulted in more failing final exam scores with almost 50% receiving grades of 1 or 2.  10 students received a grade of 1 on the final exam that year! 

But last year things kind of came back, even after another increase of 7 students making the total taking the course 55.  We still had effectively 1 in 3 receiving a failing grade of 1 or 2 on the national final exam, but that was much better than the almost 50% from the year before.  Not sure what was changed between 2011 and 2012, but something obviously did. 

Still, I am not so sure that we should accept almost 33% not meeting the expectations that colleges have, which is a final exam grade score of minimally 3, but better yet a 4 or 5 (to recap, most colleges will not accept anything below a 4 for credit).

Now interestingly enough, you will find that of the three AP math courses Stats is the one that is doing the best overall.  Let’s now look at Calculus BC…

CALCULUS BC

I’m starting with Calculus BC since it is the higher grade course, meaning most of these students are older and more mature and possibly more ready for the rigor of a college level class.  Here are the results broken down by national final exam grade for the past three years:

 

Calculus BC

5

4

3

2

1

% Pass

% Fail

Total

2012

2

8

9

0

11

63.3

36.7

30

2011

0

1

4

1

19

20.0

80.0

25

2010

2

6

8

2

8

61.5

38.5

26

In 2010 we had 26 students taking this course and 10 (almost 40%) receiving a failing final exam score.  But looking into the numbers what is more concerning is that 80% of these failing grades were with a score of 1.  One positive that I see is that in 2011 25 students took the course, meaning that the administration did not appear to try to push additional students into taking this class.  But in 2011 we had only 20% of the students receiving a passing grade!  And of the passing grades not one student received a grade of 5, which is very unusual for an AP course (you'll usually see a couple of grades of 5).  Even more concerning is how when you look at the failing scores of 1 or 2 almost all of them were with a score of 1.  19 scores of 1 that year should have been a very, very bright indicator showing that something was off. 

Last year the number of students taking the class was increased by 5, but again the numbers improved as compared to the previous year.  Again, we had over one third of the students receiving failing final exam scores and of these failures every one received a score of 1.

One thing that this trending seems to show is that something seemed to be off in 2011.  It appears that across the board the students did not do as well that year than the previous and the subsequent years.  Something we should look for while reviewing Calculus AB.

CALUCLUS AB

So here is the initial Calculus class with results broken down by national final exam grade for the past three years:

 

Calculus AB

5

4

3

2

1

% Pass

% Fail

Total

2012

2

8

8

7

25

36.0

64.0

50

2011

1

1

8

13

19

23.8

76.2

42

2010

6

6

10

7

8

59.5

40.5

37

Of each of the three courses I think this one shows the possible detriment to drastically increasing the number of students, without ensuring that the students are ready for the rigor that come with college level courses, the most. 

In 2010 there were 37 students with over 40% receiving a failing final exam score, with around half of these being a score of 1.  The number of students increased in 2011 by 5 to 42.  Once again something appears to have been going on in 2011 since over 76% of the students received a failing final exam grade that year.  Again, looking at the breakdown there is a lot to be concerned about. 

Only 1 student that year received a grade of 4 and only 1 student received a grade of 5.  According to CollegeBoard, the organization that writes, grades and conducts these advanced placement course exams, a grade of 5 on the final exam equates to the student having curriculum knowledge equal to a course grade of A, while a 4 is equal to a course grade of B (I would hope most of you would agree that this is where would want our students). 

In 2011 19 students received a failing final exam grade of 1, which should have been very concerning and have likely led to a decrease in student participation, or at least some form of gate-keeping to ensure readiness.  But instead in 2012 the number of students was increased by 8 to a total of 50.  The percentages did get slightly better as compared to 2011, which again just shows that something was very, very off that year (again, no idea what).  But the number of students receiving a failing final exam score of 1 increased to 25 students. 

Think about that for a second…  Exactly 50% of our students received a failing grade of 1 that year (Effectively a score of 1 equates to course knowledge equivalent of an F)!  So we increased the number of students taking this course by 8 and ended up increasing the number of failing scores (grade of 1 or 2) by 13 and specifically the number of grade scores of 1 by 7!

SUMMARY

I know that some of you have been reading this series and felt that the results in ELA and Social Studies wasn’t as bad as my concerns have expressed, but now we’re starting to get into the problem areas.  Believe it or not the overall results in the AP math courses is better than in the AP science courses, which I’ll be discussing next time.  But I think everyone would have to agree that there are some very obvious concerns with the AP math results.  In Calculus AB, over 75% failing in 2011 and over 64% failing last year is very concerning.  And the fact that we have such high numbers receiving a final exam grade of 1 (25 of 50 students in Calc AB last year) should be an obvious indicator for reform.  But we seem to keep increasing the number of students taking these courses, without any means of verifying readiness, when all of the results indicate that that is detrimental.

Obviously I feel we need to reform what we are doing and a need for gate-keeping, whatever that would mean, but I save further discussion of that until the summary article.  Again, next time I’ll be looking at the last subject area, AP science.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Amy December 05, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Well, my daughter is one of the students in your stats. She was able to pass the course and get college credit for it also, however, it was a difficult class and she didn't get much support from her teacher. Since she is a good student she was able to persevere.
Jim Stors December 05, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Amy, thank you for posting this. It sounds like your daughter was definitely one of those who were well prepared to handle the difficult rigors of taking a college level course in high school. It is a bit concerning that the feeling that you (and she) took away from the class was one of not getting the support from the teacher that she deserved. This definitely seems like one of the possible pitfalls of having students in a college level course who are not yet prepared or ready to handle the rigor.

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