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Saturday, June 5, 2021

La Guardia High School, the "FAME" School, May Take Away AP Classes


While LaGuardia High School students crammed last week for Advanced Placement exams, school administrators
faced a high-stakes test of their own: selling wary parents on a plan to cut down on AP courses at the famed
arts school. 
(Barry Williams/for New York Daily News)

It is indeed sad to see that the 'woke' crowd believes in taking away the diverse menu of creative, artistic expression that makes La Guardia High School such a special place for talented youth. I am very happy that this terrible plan will not be in place anytime soon:

NYC’s LaGuardia H.S. backs off plan to reduce AP courses after parent backlash

The bad word is "talented". People whose children did not get a spot at La Guardia don't want to admit to themselves or others that their child is not as "talented" as another student the same age. I have a problem with this perspective which seems to be the driving force behind public policy right now, i.e. making all kids the same in order to do away with screening of any kind. All children - all people - are unique and each individual brings something new and different to the world. I don't believe in putting anyone into a box with a label on it. 

Proponents of an opposite view to "Woke Diversity" and/or critical race theory are ready to do war as parties in the current global trend toward political intolerance.  

The new "woke" thinking conjures up ideas focused on how everyone, whether black, brown, Asian, white, Muslim, Jew Christian, or other unique characteristic is equally "talented" and should get into any school just because all kids are "equal" in their ability to sing, dance, play an instrument and/or draw, think and/or act and if you disagree, then you are a racist or something along that line. I believe this perspective only encourages a judgment that denies a person's individuality, and I can already hear readers thinking "oh, she is just a right-wing, white conservative racist" for saying this. Baloney.

We all know this just is not true.

Maybe your child is excellent at astronomy, gymnastics, languages, computers, or is interested in law, medicine and biology, and has an opportunity to shine in a school that optimizes his/her interests in those areas?

Neither La Guardia nor the Specialized High Schools are proper learning environments for every child.

The answer to this "problem" that so many parents want these hard-to-get-into schools for their child(ren) is to create many more Stuyvesant and La Guardia High Schools in every borough so that all kids can reach their personal bests, whatever they may believe these goals are.

 Betsy Combier

Editor, ADVOCATZ blog
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
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Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

Plan to reduce Advanced Placement classes at NYC’s LaGuardia High School angers students, parents

By Michael Elsen-Rooney, NY Daily News, May 31, 2021

While LaGuardia High School students crammed last week for Advanced Placement exams, school administrators faced a high-stakes test of their own: selling wary parents on a plan to cut down on AP courses at the famed arts school.

In virtual town halls, officials sketched the outlines of a plan to reduce AP courses, while expanding other types of college-level classes, in an effort to give teachers more control over curriculum and cut down on stress for students.

The plan — which school officials cautioned is not yet finalized — angered some parents and students at the Upper West Side school near Lincoln Center who say it will dilute academic rigor and disadvantage kids in college admissions at a school known for a blend of top-notch arts and demanding classes.

“I just want to take more advanced and challenging courses because I haven’t felt academically challenged in my previous classes,” said one LaGuardia junior enrolled in AP classes who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“It looks good on her record to take AP classes,“ added the LaGuardia junior’s mother, who also asked to withhold her name. “They’re going through this whole big change in the curriculum without really listening to how the parents, teachers and students feel.”
[More Education] NYC’s LaGuardia H.S. backs off plan to reduce AP courses after parent backlash »

LaGuardia officials insisted the plan would not dilute academic rigor — on the contrary, it would allow teachers to get more creative by removing the strict requirements that come with preparing for AP exams, which are designed by the nonprofit College Board and can earn students credit at some colleges if they score high enough.

“The College Board curriculum is limiting, and doesn’t allow for students to engage in a meaningful way with material,” Derek Dubossi, an 18-year-veteran science teacher at LaGuardia told parents at last week’s virtual town hall.

“Any time we encounter a topic that piques interest … we typically spend one day and move on,” he said. “If the College Board’s mandates are no longer a factor, it would allow the AP Environmental Science course to change in a positive way while still covering some very important material.”

On the one hand, the debate is another chapter in a years-long tug of war at LaGuardia — the basis of the show and movie “Fame” — between focusing on nurturing budding artists and preparing elite students.

Many families felt the school’s previous principal, Lisa Mars — who built up an arsenal of more than 20 AP courses — prized hard-charging academics at the expense of the arts.

Her successor, Yeou-Jey Vasconcelos, took over in 2019 with a promise to support the arts and re-evaluate the curriculum — a process that culminated in last week’s recommendations.

The clash over APs at LaGuardia also reflects a growing debate citywide over the value of the courses in a system that has aggressively expanded them in recent years.

More than 400 city high schools serving over 200,000 students offer at least one AP class, and Mayor de Blasio considers the growth of AP classes a signature component of his education equity agenda.

But the expansion has also drawn criticism from some educators who say the College Board-directed classes bring too many restrictions and questionable benefits.

“We erroneously assume that AP represents the highest level of education in this country,” said Pat Sprinkle, a history teacher at the NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies in Chelsea. “But what does that mean? How rich are those courses?”

The Lab School is moving to phase out AP classes over several years, after previously requiring them for juniors and seniors.

“We’re transitioning into our own uniquely designed courses,” said Sprinkle. “We don’t believe that a high-stakes exam is the learning environment in which students thrive. Let’s de-emphasize stress, de-emphasize tests, and let students enjoy their learning.”

A wave of elite private schools in Washington, D.C., made a similar decision to drop AP classes in 2018.

A College Board spokesman defended the value of the courses, arguing “no other advanced academic program has achieved the reach and diversity of AP” and pointing to company research suggesting even the lowest scores on AP exams help predict college success.

It’s not just the fast pace and high pressure of AP courses that have alienated some city educators.

Critics say the College Board has been slow to diversify its materials, even as the DOE ramps up its efforts to make school curriculum more culturally relevant.

There is no full AP class dedicated to African-American studies, though College Board officials say there’s one in the works, and there’s an AP “seminar” focused on the African diaspora.

One DOE central staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, pointed out that the AP Comparative Government restricts study to six countries. If teachers had more control, they could allow “students to select which countries they study, like where their parents are from ... that would be more culturally relevant.”

College Board spokesman Zach Goldberg vehemently disputed those characterizations, citing  Advanced Placement Program’s long-term commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Goldberg noted that schools can add their own countries to the Comparative Government curriculum.

Some city educators’ frustrations with the College Board and the demands of AP courses intensified during the pandemic.

Educators and DOE officials sharply criticized a College Board rule that barred city students from using their iPads to take digital exams, despite the fact that the city DOE distributed nearly 500,000 of the tablets to tech-strapped families. The College Board said it gave out 3,000 Chromebooks to city students who needed laptops.

Some teachers and administrators also worried the demands of the tests needlessly ratcheted up pressure on students during an already challenging year. LaGuardia went as far as encouraging students to opt-out of the exams.

“We examined the value of high-stakes Advanced Placement (AP) examinations versus the prospect of putting additional stressors on our students ... as well as increasing the equity divide in our school community,” school officials told families in a January presentation obtained by the Daily News.

“We concluded that AP exams are NOT compatible with our community values during a global health crisis ... LaGuardia strongly recommends students do not take AP examinations this year,” the presentation explained.

Many LaGuardia families bristled at that guidance — and the larger plan to reduce the role of APs in the school curriculum.

“I don’t think it’s fair that the school promised this academic rigor and all of these APs when we looked at the school, and now it just feels like a bait and switch,” said Laura Beth Gilman, the mother of two LaGuardia students.

Gilman said her son has benefited from LaGuardia’s AP courses, and her older child was able to graduate college early in part because of credits he accrued through AP tests.

LaGuardia officials say they’ll replace axed classes with programs like “College Now” that can earn students credit at CUNY and some SUNY campuses, but Gilman said that doesn’t match the wider range of colleges that accept AP credits.

Students can still take AP exams in subjects where the school no longer offers a corresponding AP course, school officials say — and insist colleges won’t penalize students for curriculum changes over which they have no control.

DOE spokesman Nathaniel Styer said “providing rigorous, enriching instruction and learning experiences is the focus at all of our high schools, including LaGuardia, and the school is engaging with staff and families as they finalize their course offering catalog for next school year.”

City officials said they didn’t see evidence of a “significant decline in AP course enrollment” next year based on a survey of roughly 100 schools.

Some students are still conflicted.

Marlen Mendieta-Camaron, an 18-year-old senior at Midwood High School in Brooklyn who’s taken both College Now and AP classes, said there are pros and cons to each approach.

“There is much more flexibility to a College Now course,” she said, while “an AP course obviously has its rigor, and it’s just very high level ... it’s what colleges want.”

“I do question sometimes if it [AP] is more about memorization ... in contrast to a College Now course where I think it’s more so about applying it to the real world,” Marlen said.

“I think the beauty of having options — AP and College Now — is you have the possibility of exploring your interests,” she added.