Finding the Best High Schools

Jay Matthews:

  • Part Four: Rationing AP:

    William Lichten, the distinguished Yale professor emeritus of physics, is at it again, trying to keep U.S. high schools from giving so many Advanced Placement courses and tests to racial minorities and low income students. Too many of those people fail the tests, he says. They should be given something easier to do.
    Most of the AP teachers I know think Lichten is out of his depth on this issue. I agree with them. He is a brilliant man who knows the dynamics of the forces of nature, but he does not understand the dynamics of American public high schools. What he sees as harmful failure on AP college-level tests is actually beneficial exercise of flabby academic muscles. Interviews with many students, and some major studies, indicate that struggling with hard courses in high school helps prepare students for the academic demands they will face in college.

  • Part Five: Grade Grubbing in Scarsdale:

    High school teachers often try not to think about the true sources of irritation in their lives. The perfidy of principals and the selfishness of parents can sometimes be too much to bear and are best ignored. Such denial has its virtues. But maybe the faculty of Scarsdale High School has taken it too far. They have decided that the best way to recover the love of learning at their famously competitive campus is to get rid of the Advanced Placement program.
    The Scarsdale faculty make their case in their “Proposal for Advanced Topics Implementation,” a plan to create a set of courses deeper, more challenging and less prone to grade grubbing than AP. Their proposal is worth considering. It will appeal to teachers across the country. It also will help destroy the myth that Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses and tests are the major cause of student anxiety in our most affluent neighborhoods because anyone who knows Scarsdale can see that AP is not their biggest problem.