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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: AP

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March 7, 2014 at 5:00 AM

UW researcher studying whether A.P. helps students succeed

Jordie Kvidera, left, and Helen Wong measure a liquid substance during their Advanced Placement chemistry class at Sammamish High School in Bellevue. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

Jordie Kvidera, left, and Helen Wong measure a liquid substance during their Advanced Placement chemistry class at Sammamish High School in Bellevue. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

While some University of Washington professors are experimenting with how to add depth to Advanced Placement courses, as described in a Seattle Times story on Sunday, one of their colleagues is doing research into whether A.P. classes — however they are taught — help students once they get to college.

Mark Long, an associate professor in the UW’s Evans School of Public Affairs, is one of three researchers exploring whether A.P. courses in biology and chemistry affect students’ college performance, and whether they spark students’ interest in majoring in the so-called STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math.

The researchers will work with about 40 high schools across the nation that aren’t now offering A.P. Biology or A.P. Chemistry. Schools that sign up will receive the money they need to start the classes, mostly for training teachers and buying supplies.

The schools will randomly assign students who are interested in and eligible for the A.P. classes to the A.P. classes and non-A.P. classes.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Advanced Placement, AP, Mark Long

March 2, 2014 at 10:59 PM

Sunday story: New approach aims to add depth to A.P. classes

Students at Garfield High role-play on the issue of immigration in a project-based Advanced Placement class taught by Jerry Neufeld-Kaiser. From left: Dominick Lewis, Israel Brown, Merron Teklu, Carlos Perryman, Sanai Anang and Lalah Muth. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

Students at Garfield High role-play on the issue of immigration in a project-based Advanced Placement class taught by Jerry Neufeld-Kaiser. From left: Dominick Lewis, Israel Brown, Merron Teklu, Carlos Perryman, Sanai Anang and Lalah Muth. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

In a new type of advanced government class at Seattle’s Garfield High, the students rarely sit quietly taking notes while their teacher stands and lectures.

Instead, they debate each other. They write legislation. They run for president in mock elections and pretend they’re lawyers arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

They sometimes even stand up and holler, as Sanai Anang did recently, playing a member of a Virginia-based group that lobbies for strict immigration controls.

In a simulated public hearing, Anang, who loves to ham it up, jumped to his feet without being recognized and declared, in a mangled Southern accent, “Ee-lee-gals come over and take our jobs. They don’t bee-long here.”

His classmates and teacher Jerry Neufeld-Kaiser cracked up.

They are all part of a teaching experiment that began six years ago in the Bellevue School District when a handful of frustrated government teachers teamed up with University of Washington researchers and turned the usual Advanced Placement curriculum inside out.

Read the full story here.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Advanced Placement, AP

March 1, 2014 at 5:05 PM

Guest: New teaching approach makes A.P. more accessible to wider range of students

Jerry Neufeld-Kaiser

Jerry Neufeld-Kaiser

For the past four years, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching an Advanced Placement government class based completely on project-based learning, a new approach that emphasizes simulations such as mock trial over memorization and lecture. It’s also a key way to get more students involved in advanced coursework and help close the achievement gap.

Here’s what’s fulfilling about teaching this way: Student engagement and enthusiasm are much higher with this approach. The kids are excited for class because they want the bill they wrote to pass or because they are hoping to get endorsed by the Sierra Club so they can lock up the party nomination. And they have fun playing a character. For example, conservative students have a great time playing bleeding heart liberals. Because it’s fun to be part of, it doesn’t feel like school work for the students.

It’s rewarding to bring in outside experts, or to look in on actual politics, and see how much our simulations mirror what happens in the real world. The students are struck that government really happens just like we see in class. In our Congress simulation, the Democrats were frustrated that they felt steam-rolled by the Republican majority on every vote in the floor session. And in our presidential debate, the short-staffed Green Party candidate was mad when he learned he was being barred from the debate. Then he held a press conference to say how he would have answered the questions, just as Green Party candidate Jill Stein did in 2012.

Here’s what makes project-based A.P. instruction difficult for teachers: Each student needs a role they can succeed in that challenges them. Some can rise to the challenge of playing a candidate in a public forum, but others will wither. Getting that wrong can be painful. Also, the more intricate projects where each student plays a different role depend on high attendance. If the Tea Party Republican candidate gets suspended and can’t be at the debate, then not only is the debate less fun and inclusive, but it’s also less effective for learning.


Comments | More in Guest opinion | Topics: Advanced Placement, AP, Garfield High School

March 1, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Guest: Why we need to get more students enrolled in A.P.

Philip Ballinger

Philip Ballinger

One goal of my work at the University of Washington is to see students gain access to higher education and succeed in earning their degrees. One decade ago, our nation led the world in college graduation, but today we rank a disappointing 13th. There are many students throughout the U.S. who have the potential to enroll and complete their degrees, but too many lack access to the rigorous coursework that prepares them for success in college.

Advanced Placement courses and other rigorous curricula-based programs offer high school students the opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills they’ll need to succeed in college. On average, only half of all students nationally earn their bachelor’s degrees within five or six years, which is a great financial burden on students and their families. But students who earn qualifying scores on their A.P. exams more typically graduate within four years. These students are able to make the most of their time on campus — by pursuing a double-major or studying abroad without risking their ability to graduate on time.

Washington has made great strides to expand A.P. access to more students. In 2003, only 16 percent of the state’s public high school graduates took A.P., while 34 percent of graduates took A.P. last year. The percentage of graduates who earned A.P. exam scores of 3 or higher (scores typically required for college credit) rose from 10.4 percent a decade ago to nearly 21 percent in 2013.

Although we have made progress, the overall state-level picture still concerns me. Forty-seven percent of Washington’s public high school graduates in the class of 2013 either never took an A.P. course in a subject for which they had demonstrated the potential to succeed, or they attended a school that did not offer a course in the subject. This pattern is particularly prevalent in lower-resourced schools.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: Advanced Placement, AP, higher ed

March 1, 2014 at 4:55 PM

Quiz: Try some sample A.P. exam questions

Think you have what it takes to pass the Advanced Placement exam for U.S. Government and Politics? Try out some sample test questions, as provided by the College Board:

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Related story: New approach for A.P. classes means less lecturing, more doing


Comments | Topics: Advanced Placement, AP

March 1, 2014 at 1:03 PM

Rewind: Google Hangout on how schools can better serve advanced students

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Watch the video above for our first-ever Google Hangout, which focused on the topic of how schools can better serve advanced students.

The discussion featured the following panelists:

  • Walter Parker: Walter is a professor of education at the University of Washington and one of the lead researchers behind the project-based approach featured in Sunday’s story about A.P.
  • Amber Graeber: Amber is Advanced Placement coordinator for the Des Moines (Iowa) Public Schools, where she has implemented a similar project-based model for advanced instruction.
  • Katie Piper: Katie teaches A.P. courses at Bellevue’s Sammamish High School, one of the schools trying out the new teaching approach.
  • Linda Shaw: Linda has covered public education at The Seattle Times for more than two decades and spent several months reporting and writing the Sunday story about Advanced Placement. She will be facilitating the Google Hangout.

Comments | More in Video, Your voices | Topics: Advanced Placement, AP, live chat

February 28, 2014 at 2:27 PM

Coming Sunday: Local educators give A.P. instruction a makeover

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Advanced Placement, or A.P., is quickly becoming the accepted standard for college-level coursework in U.S. high schools. The popularity of the College Board program has exploded in the past decade, with more than 2 million students taking one or more A.P. exams last year.


Comments | More in News, Video | Topics: Advanced Placement, AP, Sammamish High School

February 28, 2014 at 1:36 PM

Taken AP courses? Share your experience with Education Lab

Photo by Charles Dharapak / The Associated Press.

Photo by Charles Dharapak / The Associated Press.

Have you ever taken an Advanced Placement class, or a similar high school course for college credit? Education Lab wants to hear from you.

Our next story examines a new way of teaching AP courses that is being developed in partnership with the University of Washington. The new approach uses project-based learning as an alternative to a more traditional version of AP instruction focused on memorization and test preparation.


Comments | More in Question of the Week, Your voices | Topics: Advanced Placement, AP, high school