By design, the AP courses offered at SIS represent a tremendous range of skills and expectations. For this reason, it is very difficult to state in one or two sentences what qualifies a student as being “ready” for an AP course. It naturally varies from course to course. Furthermore, it is understood that a 10th grade student in an AP course is not the same as a 12th grade student in an AP course.
- AP courses are designed provide additional challenge to students who are confident in their core academic skills (reading, writing, organization).
- AP courses are designed to extend students’ understanding of specific content knowledge and assume that students possess at least a basic level of proficiency in the content learning objectives of the prerequisite courses.
- AP course enrollment indicates a degree of intellectual curiosity and willingness to take risks when learning new ideas and skills.
- AP courses are all electives and are offered as opportunities for students to learn and grow in their academic skills.
- Recommendation for an AP class indicates the teacher’s belief in a student’s readiness to engage the challenge of a course, but not a students’ readiness to earn a very high score. Students interested in specific grade outcomes should consider other non-AP options since access to opportunity does not guarantee the narrowly defined success of a specific high grade.
- AP Courses whose challenge is so great that it would require the student to receive yearlong tutoring or academic support in order to achieve a specific outcome may not be the best selection for a junior or senior. Prolonged academic support undermines the AP goal of training independent and responsible, college-ready students.
AP teachers at SIS are all experienced in their fields and have met the training/preparation requirements issued by the College Board. All possess a degree of expertise that qualifies them to challenge and assess students at a level that simulates college expectations. At the same time, AP teachers are high school teachers who do not confuse college level academic challenge with teaching college-aged adults. AP teachers understand that AP students are at varying levels of intellectual and emotional development, requiring a greater degree of guidance and nurturing than a college would expect of a typical freshman. The degree of differentiated instruction may be lower than in a required course, but all AP teachers, especially those teaching courses without introductory level courses (computer science, psychology, and statistics), anticipate that in order to scaffold on more advanced content and skills, they may have to review/reteach some more basic content or skills.
An AP teacher’s role is not to act as gatekeeper to challenging coursework reserved for only a few elite students, but rather to use the increased challenge of the AP coursework to inspire students to strive to improve in their skills as well as ignite a passion for learning that transcends the obsession over grades that characterizes a more adolescent attitude toward education. This means that AP teachers expect to engage in more mature conversations with students interested in learning. These conversations range from the process of selecting AP courses to take, to processes for learning or demonstrating learning, to understanding and meeting course expectations. AP teachers at SIS do not talk to students about achieving certain grades and adding or dropping courses, but instead discuss student outcome expectations and their professional assessment of how realistic those expectations are given the demands of the course and the skills of the student. It is the responsibility of the student and not the teacher to determine if an AP course is appropriate for them.
AP courses apply the same definitions as non-AP courses to terms like formative and summative assessment. However, some AP assessments may not have explicit instructions or directions, instead challenging students to work independently with an appropriate level of uncertainty. All AP teachers have received at least basic training in college-level assessment and are expected to use assessment in the course to familiarize students with AP assessment expectations as well as help students to understand where their performance falls in those expectations. At the same time, AP assessment levels do not necessarily have perfect analogs in the SIS grading scale. AP teachers are expected to use their professional judgement to fairly assign SIS grades that reflect an evolution of expectations as students become increasingly familiar with the expectations specific to that course as well as have some correlation with what students can expect on their AP exams from a similar performance. Despite AP courses simulating college-level expectations, students in AP classes are not expected to teach themselves any content and will not receive any summative assessments on content or skills not taught. Assessment of student knowledge or skills may precede instruction but it will be formative and its purpose will be strictly diagnostic.