This online column, now in its ninth year, used to be called “Class Struggle.” When we shifted that name to my blog, including all three of my weekly columns plus my various rants and outbursts, and the more reasoned discourse of my Post education writer colleagues, we renamed it “Trends.” It is a simple name, useful mostly to access our left-side-of-the-page archive of Friday online columns, but proves to be quite apt.
I love following trends in education, particularly those that involve favorite topics such as high-performing charter schools, college admissions practices, great teachers, weak-minded curricular fads and college-level courses in high school. We have two interesting trends in this last category, both having to do with the rise in influence of Advanced Placement, and to a lesser extent International Baccalaureate.
I have been accused of uncritically promoting AP and IB. I insist it’s not true. I have written three books looking at these programs in detail. I think that makes me credible when I say they have done more to raise the level of high school instruction than anything else in the last two decades. But they have their flaws, such as the odd ways some schools motivate students to take the courses and tests. One of the two trends is the use of cash bonuses. That approach raises participation and achievement, both good things, but I still consider it troubling.