A teacher with the sign-on name of pfelcher posted a provocative comment on the Web version of my Nov. 3 column for the Post’s Metro section. I was repeating for the 4,897th time my view that even low-income students who have not performed well in school can learn in a college-level high school course, like Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate, if given extra time and encouragement.
Pfelcher would have none of my argument. To support his opinion, he cited a personal experience in his classroom. I always find first-person accounts helpful when debating this issue. I decided to send his comment to a few other AP teachers I knew, and see what they had to say.
Here is the post from pfelcher, whom I do not know and cannot identify further, followed by the reactions of three teachers, plus a student who sent me his view. If we want to make our high schools better, we have to work this out. I think such exchanges help us figure out what to do:
It’s not about who wins in a class of students with such disparate preparation and skill; it’s about who loses. The students ready to march ahead are forced instead to grind to a halt as the other students have to be taught the basics with which they should have entered the class.
At the end of the year, those unprepared students who might have gained from my class but who still had too far to go to attain the literacy and competence the test requires, failed miserably on the AP exam. So, did these lower-end students gain from the experience? Yes, they did to some degree, even though egos that had never really been tried suffered when they saw how they compared to the nation.