EPIC FAILURE – AP Classes in South DeKalb

Using tax dollars to pay for Advanced Placement (AP) exams embodies many of the problems I have with the education and testing industrial complex as well as the implementation of political philosophies on both sides of the aisle in Georgia.

Stan Jester

Advance Placement (AP) courses are college-level courses offered in high school. Students can earn college credit from scoring a level 3, 4, or 5 on the exam. The State of Georgia covers the cost for one AP exam for students who are served by the Free & Reduced Lunch Program (FRL).
Last week, the Board of Education approved up to $310,000 for the purchase of one AP exam for all students enrolled in at least one AP course. This means that students receiving free/reduced lunches will get two free exams – the first one paid for by the state, and the second one (if applicable) paid for by the District.

Why? Student performance in AP courses and on AP exams has been determined to be a valid indicator of success at the collegiate level. The District’s purchase of an AP exam for students enrolled in an AP course will provide (allegedly) greater access and equity for students.

Related Posts
  Feb 21, 2017 – EPIC FAILURE – AP Classes in South DeKalb
  Mar 4, 2016 – AP Courses/Exams And College Graduation Rates

EPIC FAILURE in South DeKalb – Here are the AP Exam results for the last 7 years.
There are 6 schools that have pass rates percentages of under 10% (Cedar Grove, Columbia, MLK, McNair, Redan, and Towers). There are 8 schools that have pass rate percentages between 10-25% (Arabia Mountain, Clarkston, Lithonia, Miller Grove, Stephenson, Stone Mountain, and Tucker). There are 2 schools that have pass rates of 26%-43% (Cross Keys and Southwest DeKalb). There are 6 schools that perform at or above the average pass rate (44%) for the school district (Chamblee, DECA, DeKalb School of the Arts, Druid Hills, Dunwoody, and Lakeside).

It is interesting to note that south of Hwy 78, there are only two schools with an average or better AP pass rate and both of those schools are magnet programs with entry requirements. It is even more interesting to note that the magnet programs at Arabia Mountain and Southwest DeKalb performed below average. Arabia Mountain performed significantly below average and below Southwest DeKalb’s numbers. Of the 6 schools that performed at or above the system wide passing average, three are traditional neighborhood schools with no entry requirements.

The following people made these statements during the discussion of the 2/13/2017 – Purchase of AP Exams

Dr. Joyce Morley (Board of Education) – “That’s good. When we talk about Towers HS that has done a complete turn around and we don’t hear anything about them. When there was a lot of crime and a lot of problems they were always out there. Now, nobody mentions what’s going on at Towers.
Clarkston, we have all those immigrants moving forward, and Redan and encouraging them to take the courses. These are the schools where the principals are working hard, there’s been a lot of turn around and they’re holding down the fort there. Also, enable and empower the counselors to identify the students and challenge them.”

I’m not sure where the turnaround is because it isn’t reflected in the quality or quantity of learning in the AP courses at Towers, Clarkston or Redan. Towers has a 24% decrease in the number of students taking the AP exam and a 2% increase in the number of students that pass the test. Clarkston should be relatively proud of itself, AP exam participation has gone from 193 to 238 students and from 10% to 11% passing rate. Redan embodies EPIC FAILURE. Redan HS had a 25% decrease in the number of students taking the AP exam and went from 15% to 5% of the students passing it.

DeKalb Superintendent Stephen Green – “This is part of a whole systemic effort that ties to My Brother’s Keeper or My Sister’s Keeper. What I’m pleased to hear is that contrary to popular belief, that “when you increase the number of students that the overall score will go down”. We are increasing the pipeline and the scores are going up. That’s what is most impressive to me.”

In South DeKalb there was a major decline in the number of AP Exams taken and a major decline in the percentage of students who passed the exams. The percentage of students passing these exams at MLK, Stone Mountain, Stephenson and Redan are at an all time low.

Style Over Substance and Who Really Benefits
The recent trend in education is to reward districts that have increases in AP test takers. Of course, the more tests that are taken, the more money flowing into the coffers of the testing industry. It’s no wonder that they give awards for increasing their bottom line.
Unfortunately, we are doing students and taxpayers a disservice with all these tax dollars going to the testing companies. Students and taxpayers alike should demand that money flow into the classroom to actually improve the quality of the instruction; so that kids might have a better chance to pass the AP exam and earn college credit. That would actually produce a return on investment for the taxpayers. Right now, all that is going on is a transfer of wealth to testing companies disguised as opportunities for disadvantaged students.
The irony is that the kids from more affluent backgrounds are several times more likely to actually capture the value of their free exam and earning college credit.

DeKalb County School District cites studies: Students who successfully complete an AP course are more likely to graduate high school and graduate from college.
Correlation is not Causality
It is more likely that students who voluntarily choose to take AP courses and exams are the types of students that are already better prepared and highly motivated. Success in college perhaps is not attributed to the AP class and exam themselves, but to the personal characteristics that led them to participate in the class to begin with.

Philosophically, why is the state or school district paying for Advanced Placement Exams?
Education is the largest budget item in the state. The DeKalb County School District has the 2nd highest millage rate in the state. Why don’t we lower taxes and let people decide for themselves what to do with the money? Anybody who says that people will make the wrong decision is somebody that doesn’t believe in freedom. Freedom is the right of other people to make decisions that you do not approve of.

77 responses to “EPIC FAILURE – AP Classes in South DeKalb

  1. Fascinating problem. I think this is part of the bigger incentives problem at work at schools with economically disadvantaged students.
    Students that do not believe they will be able to pay for college are less likely to take their high school academic coursework seriously. That creates an environment where there’s less peer reinforcement of the value of academic study, dragging everyone down.
    The $93 cost to take an AP exam is a huge burden for a poor family.
    Yeah, the yield sucks. In a place like Arabia Mountain, we’re paying $500 for a pass. On the other hand … we’re covering $500 of tuition for that student that they don’t have to pay if they go to college. And I suspect those are the college-bound students.

  2. In Florida schools part of a school’s grade is determined by how many students take advanced placement courses – not how many pass the test. Students without the academic discipline needed to be successful in these rigorous classes are being placed in them to the detriment of their GPA so that the school’s grade will be higher.

  3. One of the items I hoped to see added to the board agenda (at least quarterly) is an academic performance readout (beyond AP), during which significant accomplishments, challenges, opportunities for improvements, and ROI would be highlighted. It’s a way of focusing the public’s attention on outcomes rather than the current imbalanced attention to process (e.g. HR, financial transactions, dept. requests etc). While I know many cringe at private sector comparisons, I can’t imagine a $1.0B company board meeting during which the performance of its portfolio and strategic steps to improve performance are never discussed.

  4. Retired teacher fed up with incompetency

    When I read articles such as these I simply cannot understand it. The administration in the high schools, principals, lead teachers, counsellors apparently are not Doing their job. If they were the students could be guided in selection of AP classes, etc. Everyone doesn’t need to take these classes or tests just as all students aren’t meant for college but technical schools maybe. There doesn’t seem to be any guidance for the students.
    More tests more money for testing company… kick backs??

  5. I should disclose/remind people that the Superintendent worked for The College Board for 8 years.
    Students who successfully complete an AP course are more likely to graduate high school and graduate from college. – Everybody hangs on to this as a reason to push as many students as possible into AP courses. However … like I said last year …
      Mar 4, 2016 – AP Courses/Exams And College Graduation Rates
    Correlation is not Causality
    It is more likely that students who voluntarily choose to take AP courses and exams are the types of students that are already better prepared and highly motivated. Success in college perhaps is not attributed to the AP class and exam themselves, but to the personal characteristics that led them to participate in the class to begin with.

  6. I don’t remember paying for any of my many AP exams in high school except for a test for which I didn’t take the course. (I was not in Dekalb, though.) My parents were both unemployed and certainly could not have. We couldn’t even keep our power on. I worked and I suppose I might have and forgot, but I simply don’t remember doing so. I believe they should be covered. Otherwise, AP becomes just another advantage limited to the wealthier students.
    If the pass rate is so low among the most motivated students at a school, and especially if the students are supposedly passing the course, I can’t help but wonder what is going on in the class. I scored 4 or 5 on all of my AP exams and that was without acing the courses. Shouldn’t there be a high failure rate in the course if students aren’t even familiar enough with the material to pass the test? There is a problem if there are many students going in who can’t pass the test.
    Not everyone should be in AP. We had to be approved to take AP coursework.
    Perhaps the state should pay, but only if the student successfully passes the course. We have a huge problem in all districts in Georgia with grade inflation and social promotion that needs stopped. (I know many teachers, and know the pressure often comes from the bloated administration, as they are blamed if students fail, just as much as it comes from high achieving parents in the nicer districts demanding A’s as if they meant adequate rather than exceptional. In one case, the teacher works at an underperforming school in Fulton at the high school level where he gets children who are significantly below grade level and simply refuse to do work. They turn in blank tests. Yet, he was told he was failing too many and given a bad review after decades of teaching in other states where he even won awards.)
    That said, I do think there needs to be more guidance in whether to register for AP coursework. I took many, and some I did not need in college, and caused certain financial aid issues when it transferred in as credit hours past freshman year. An AP course offered is not necessarily the best thing for the student for many reasons.

  7. Amen retired teacher. As a former AP US and World History teacher I concur with your evaluation. The DeKalb school system has lost sight of the purpose of AP courses. These courses are rigorous and not for everyone. They are meant for students ready to accept a challenge and that have some degree of maturity. Well meaning students without some proper discipline and background will not be successful in these courses.
    My BOE experience is similar to yours. Folks think that if you enroll in the courses you will get “smarter”. That is not the way it works. It is always best to place a child in a place where they have a reasonable chance at success. When you throw in anyone who wants to be in an AP course all you do is water it down for the rest of the class which will suffer from that approach. You not only lose those who probably should not be in there, but you often lost many of those who should be there because you often have to teach the lowest level so the state thinks you are good teacher when you are evaluated.
    I also complained about paying for AP tests during my tenure. We paid for ALL the AP test for a few years. I always complained that the state paid for one and that is what we should support. I believe the Dollar number was much higher a few years ago. At one point we paid for all the tests.
    I have no sympathy for the argument that anyone who wants to take AP should be able to. The AP people will tell you that it is a course that is not for everybody. I can tell you this from my years of teaching AP, the tests are very challenging and very difficult. DeKalb schools are so off the track I fear we never get them back.

  8. Russell Carleton

    There are two possible policy interpretations on this. One is that we have an incentive (more kids in AP classes -> better “ratings” for the school -> push more kids who really aren’t ready into AP classes) and that this inflates the number of dollars that the school system has to spend in buying tests. The policy solution here would be either to get rid of the incentive that links AP enrollment with “good school” (I assume this isn’t a district metric, though… so it’s hard to set policy on something that you don’t control) or to set a policy about who is “eligible” to take an AP class or an AP exam. That cuts down on “excess” tests purchased.
    There are going to be practicality problems with that. If you screen who can enroll in AP classes in August, there’s no pre-test that could really be used, so you’d be relying on school personnel to pick the kids who “have a chance” at passing. Presumably that’s what they’re doing now. although the data show that they aren’t picking well. There’s also a natural filter point around when the tests have to be physically ordered (and paid for), although that’s a couple months ahead of the actual test. There could be a policy around “You have to have a grade that’s above C or B or whatever to actually take the test” (which was how it was done when I was in HS). However, that can quickly become a classroom management problem if you have a lot of people below the cut-line and the one thing that they are theoretically in the class to do is no longer an option. Maybe they already have that policy and are too optimistic about who can pass, even in February or March when they have to make that call.
    The other possibility is that schools are putting kids into AP classes that they might not think will actually pass the final test, but they need bodies in the desks to make up numbers to justify having an AP class in the first place. We can see from the data above that there are schools where there are only 20 or 30 passed tests in the whole school (and that’s tests, not students, so you might have one student who passed three of them). What do you do if you have ten kids who might get a lot out of AP classes? That sort of policy runs the distinct risk of having the actual effect be shutting down any AP classes in some high schools. Those ten kids are out of luck.
    The other policy option is to shut down the subsidy altogether. That is going to lead some kids who could pass the test not doing so because the family can’t afford the fee, unless there’s some other mechanism. That means that the ability to avail oneself of the credits that come from an AP exam is based on family income.

  9. I was once a proctor for AP exams at a local high school. Since the test was paid for by the school, it was mandatory for the kids to take the test, even though the test score has no bearing on their class grade whatsoever. So, you had kids that didn’t want to exert energy on the AP exam – either because they knew they wouldn’t score high enough for it to count as a college credit or they knew that they definitely wanted to take the class in college, even if they scored well enough to exempt the class in college (this happens a lot with students taking Calculus AP and intending to major in engineering – many don’t want to skip the college level class). These kids would literally show up in their pj’s, spend 10 min on the test, and then pull out the pillow they brought and take a NAP for the rest of the test time. If these kids had the option to take the test, or if they had to pay for it, they wouldn’t take it. I’ve always tried to suggest the school system reimburse for any test that scores a 3 or higher (could be used to exempt a college class). This way, only the kids that want to take the test would need to take it. The kid that either knows they won’t do well enough on it or doesn’t want to try to exempt out of the college class, could opt out of the test and save the school system the money and save the child the time (they’re usually missing class to take an AP exam).

  10. The DCSD Staffing Allocation formula probably contributes to placing students in AP courses whether or not they have any chance of succeeding.
    As I understand it, high school teachers are “earned” only when they teach 27+ students.
    But what happens if there aren’t 27+ students who want to take an AP class and have a reasonable chance of success? There are at least 3 Options:
    Option 1 – Offer the AP class with fewer than 27 students, even though this means that the AP teacher isn’t “earned”
    Option 2 – Don’t offer the AP class
    Option 3 – Coax other students into taking the AP course, so that the AP teacher is “earned”
    Each of these options has implications:
    Option 1 – This works out well for the students who want to take the AP class and have a reasonable chance of success. They have a small class size and every student has a reasonable chance of success.
    However, elsewhere in the school another teacher has a larger class size so that the small AP class can be offered. If it’s just 2-3 students maybe that’s not a big deal. But in some cases the gap could be 10+ students, which can be a significant burden on other teachers and students.
    Option 2 – This doesn’t work out well for the students who want to take the AP class and have a reasonable chance of success. They are totally out of luck due to either the lack of interest or lack of ability of the other students at their school.
    Option 3 – This could work out well for the students who want to take the AP class and have a reasonable chance of success, since the class will be offered. But this depends on whether the students coaxed to be in the class are capable and interested or somehow disrupt the high level of learning required for AP.
    This could work out well for the students who are coaxed into taking the AP class. Perhaps they will rise to the challenge and discover a new strength. But perhaps they will be demoralized.
    Keep in mind that the CCRPI rewards schools for the percentage of students who earn high school credit in AP courses. That says nothing about their score on the AP exam. So if you offer the AP class and ensure that kids pass, you have increased your CCRPI score and life is good.
    At some schools, kids routinely score 5’s on the AP exam while barely making B’s in the course. But I fear this is rare, as all of the incentive is to pass the class.
    Until there is some penalty for poor performance on the AP exam, other than notoriety on Stan’s blog, I don’t expect anything to change.

  11. Lots of challenges as have already been mentioned. Here are a few more:
    1. Several years ago, students were required to take the AP test in order to get the 5.0 GPA boost. That changed about 4 years ago when the powers that be decided it was not fair that the wealthier students could pay for all their AP tests and get the boost and others could not. To that end, all studnets taking an AP course get the 1 point GPA boost regardless of whether they take the test.
    2. The quality of the AP course varies dramatically even within the same high school where more than one teacher teaches the same subject. Some are college level and graded accordingly and others in the same subject in the same building are easy.
    3. Human Geography is offered as an AP – virtually no college recognizes it for credit no matter what you score but it helps the CCRPI and college board.
    4. DCSD high schools are now offering more freshmen and sophomores AP classes – if these are to be college rigor, there are very few 9-10th graders ready for college level courses. Again, helps the college board but probably not many students.
    5. Because they get the GPA bump by just taking the course, there isn’t a lot of incentive to do well on the exam: most students aren’t out the money, nor are the parents (2 free/yr.) so as mentioned, they don’t even try. Those that try are usually trying to knock out a humanities credit in college because they know if they are going into science or math, they need to take the entry level classes which are more difficult than AP.
    6. Many years ago, the BOE and district adopted the stance that any student that wanted to take an AP class should have access to them so criteria to take the courses went by the wayside. That has remained the philosophy so the counselors are “doing their job”.
    7. Students are no longer required to take the exam. They can take the class and choose to skip the exam.
    8. Administrators should be reviewing the data: comparing grades with exam scores, looking at percentage of 3 or better, looking at scores among teachers in same building and who is getting results and why (maybe it’s the kids, maybe it’s the teaching, etc), making decisions about whether to continue the class for the coming year…
    9. DCSD could think outside the box: perhaps we could use technology to link students among schools that don’t have enough students to have an AP class via online classes where the teacher is remotely teaching; maybe more fully utilize the advanced classes at Fernbank, offer the AP class at one school and students are transported from nearby schools (similar to the programs offered at Cross Keys where studnets from multiple schools attend and go back to their home school mid-day), etc.
    10. Each high school in DCSD sets their own price for AP exams. College board charges $93 this year…some schools are charging $93 and others up to $99. How is that fair?

  12. @ AB – “College board charges $93 this year…some schools are charging $93 and others up to $99. How is that fair?” I asked that same question on Stan’s Facebook page. The additional money that will be collected this year is about $10,000 based on the number of students that took the AP test last year. This practice has been going on for almost 10 years now. What I want to know is where is the almost $100K that has been collected on the backs of students and their families. How is it fair that one school charges extra money when all the other school’s charge was College Board charges? I have never gotten an answer and I have finally quit asking. I am hoping that someone on here can help me and help our students and their families.

  13. @Lynn,
    You’re right! Chamblee Charter and Dunwoody are charging $93 per AP exam while Lakeside is charging $99 per AP exam and Druid Hills is charging $98 per AP exam. (These fees are either listed on the school’s websites or were included in the weekly email bulletins.)
    Per Stan’s chart, last year Lakeside students took 1284 AP exams. Suppose half were paid for by the State of Georgia or DCSD. That still leaves 642*$6 = $3,852 in extra fees.
    The same estimate for Druid Hills yields 254*$5 = $1,270 in extra fees.
    The notice to parents does not include any reason for charging more than the $93 College Board fee. I had no idea that schools had any discretion on this fee, or that they would charge more than the minimum.
    Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  14. While I am sitting in my car waiting to pick my kids up I have been able to think about Block vs Traditional 7 period day and how that might affect AP testing. In a traditional seven. Day the student teacher contact minutes is 9000 minutes compared to only 8100 minutes on the block schedule. That is a difference of 900 minutes. We are also assuming that a teacher is teaching 90 minutes straight on a block schedule. If they are not teaching for 90 minutes straight then the contact minutes grows. Food for thought.

  15. Hello
    I don’t know Mr. Mayfield, but I would like to agree and add to his comment. Mr. Jester, DeKalb has all kinds of program or services. When DeKalb was attempting to gain accreditation, I remember a concern raised by SACS. It was that DeKalb needed to evaluate its many programs and services to see which ones actually worked. Also there was concern that DeKalb was not doing a good job at monitoring the use and compliance of its many programs and services.
    Mr Jester, how does DeKalb evaluate its many programs?
    For example:
    Are the AP and IB programs working? If not, what needs to be done?
    What about the Universal Screener?
    Are there enough services for Gifted, ELL, Special Education?
    Do our Wrap Around Services Work? How do we know, Not just warm stories but how does it improve attendance, grades, test scores?
    I am not asking for an answer to the programs that I listed. My point is how do we know what works ? If it doesn’t work, how do we make the necessary changes ?
    At what point do we do a “deep dive” of the academic performance and needs of all students?
    And the public has a right to know the outcome.
    Thank you for all that you do.

  16. How do we measure the impact of these “Wrap Around Services”? – For Exampe: Discovery Education.
    According to the administration … The goal of this partnership with Discovery Education as one of the implementation and support strategies for the 10 Horizon schools is to enhance leadership, teaching, and student learning, with the outcomes to be measured by on-going formative assessments (e.g., Benchmarks), changes in teacher and leader practices, and the EOG Milestones Assessment.
    Discovery Education will support the following elementary schools: Allgood, Cedar Grove, Chapel Hill, Fairington Way, Flat Shoals, Oak VIew, Barack H. Obama, Panola Way, Snapfinger, and Stoneview, by implementing a detailed plan in which the vendor will be facilitating 280+ sessions, working with school-based administrators, teachers and instructional academic coaches.
    Measuring for Impact – For the identified 10 Horizon schools, impact will be measured via:
    • Student Performance data as measured by District benchmark assessments (SY2016-17)
    • Learning Walks Data – Noting changes in teacher practices
    • Student proficiency rates in grades 3, 4 and 5 as measured by the GA Milestones End of Grade assessment (results in May/June 2017)
    • Overall CCRPI Scores for each of the Horizon Schools (score summaries as released by the GA DOE/GOSA).

  17. I would assess how successful an AP class was by the number of students that passed the AP exam. All AP subjects and tests are not created equal and I don’t expect all schools across the district to perform the same. However, we should have achievable goals for an individual AP class.

  18. I liked my kids to take AP classes for the meaningful good content and had to fight with admin to opt out of the exams. Nothing is the same as a college class experience. Save the $! Only encourage the top 10% to take the test. We have to pay for it anyway in north/ middle DeKalb.

  19. There is a little bit of good news in the data. Over the past few years the % pass has increased faster in DeKalb than the rest of GA, and #pass exams has also increased by about 34%, even though the number of exam taken has fallen. So I would say overall the system has gotten better at selecting students for AP courses.
    However, the %pass trend is heavily influenced by two schools. Arabia Mtn HS, which was and is underperforming, has drastically cut the number of exams taken. Dunwoody HS has increased it’s %pass while increasing the number of exams taken. Take these two schools out and the gain in %pass is still OK, but not as impressive (not closing the gap with the rest of the state by much).
    The overall increase in #pass exams is heavily influenced by Chamblee, Lakeside, and Dunwoody. Taking these three schools out will show that the rest of the district hasn’t made much improvement at all in the #pass exams over the past few years. And the 34% increase in #pass exams for the system is less impressive when you consider that the rest of the state has increased the #pass exams by about 49% over the same time period.
    I’m not sure we have enough info estimate ROI though. What %pass rate among the free exams is considered the breakeven point for the state? If the GA doesn’t spend money on free exams, will it have to spend more for students to take these classes at the college level?

  20. Just noticing that Chamblee and Dunwoody have AP scores above 70 (72 and 70) which, while not quite at private school level, aren’t bad. But looking at the other schools, the numbers are just not good. I believe this shows that some students and some schools just shouldn’t be offering these type of tests. It is a waste of taxpayer money and its something that is discouraging for the kids. Even Cross Keys for all its praises by some on this board, only has 30% of its students get a 3 on the AP exam.
    This is something that has been said here, but I will echo it – not everyone is meant to take AP exams and not everyone is meant to go to college. Every child has their own strengths and their own abilities and to try to force something that is not there isn’t fair to the kid. I went to college, but on the flip side, I am about as unhandy as you can get. I know nothing about electricity or roofing or engines. But I respect those with that gift. Those with that gift are needed in our society. So, people that think we can make every school the “same” and offer exactly the same programs at each school with no regard to student needs or interests, let these scores show that its likely not an effective solution.

  21. As a student, I was told if I took the AP exam for a class I would be exempted from the final for said class. Many students, along with myself, took the exam even though we were ill prepared for it.

  22. Bill Armstrong

    Stan, Worthwhile post in my opinion. There is stuff I agree & disagree with here by you & the comments, I can be wordy so I’ll focus on just one idea here:
    “Correlation is not Causality. It is more likely that students who voluntarily choose to take AP courses and exams are the types of students that are already better prepared and highly motivated. Success in college perhaps is not attributed to the AP class and exam themselves, but to the personal characteristics that led them to participate in the class to begin with.”
    I attended the AP night at CCHS recently with my 9th grader. There was a decent crowd & checking around I’d say many were parents with their 9th/10th grade students – mainly on a “recon mission” to get a handle on what is available & how it fits in – “what can my kid take, when,” & as was often discussed from the stage & the classrooms – “how much can they handle.” The message – don’t try to bite off more than you can chew, but here are the pros & cons, factors to consider, now go listen to the teachers as they discuss the rigor of their AP courses & what is covered.
    And we did.
    But point – I think only a very few super-motivated 9th & 10th students would have showed up at such meeting without being guided by teachers/counselors – but much more-so – their PARENTS – not the kids, even high-schoolers. True in my house, many others I know (even with high expectations) & certainly true when I was that age!
    Mapping your schedule & course of study over 4 years in HS can be daunting – especially now. weaving in AP – a group effort, at least for most. As we ALL know – home environment – educational level of parents – such a big factor. A self-fulfilling prophesy for many. So for those that need help – how best to provide it? I agree – dumping into AP classes they aren’t prepared for – no. Encouraging it & paying for it, only a small way to create an expectation of “I can do that.” The solution? obviously help get them prepared. How? That’s the zillion $$ question.
    “Fun”-fact. No AP Chemistry at CCHS this year – not enough takers. I was surprised by that. Although I certainly wouldn’t have taken it myself, don’t care who’d pay for it.

  23. Scott Gillispie

    Hopped over here from the thread on the Get Schooled blog…
    I didn’t take AP classes in high school – I took honors classes. AP shouldn’t be a class; it’s just a test that should translate into clearing some credit hours at college. I took four tests, I did well, I got to skip 24 quarter hours at Tech (back before the knuckleheads at the B of R decided that semesters was a good idea for everyone – Sad.) Heck of a lot more useful standardized test than a lot of them that we put the kids through – actual economic payoff (less credit hours to pay for in college) for the kids if they succeed.
    …Anyway – all kids should have equal access to take honors classes if they are going to be bored in the regular ones – at least in the core subjects. Whether they are likely to do well enough to take the AP and get college hours at a discount – that’s an economic decision for them and their parents only, and everyone else should kindly butt out.
    As with so many issues, everyone is putting too much of the credit/blame on the schools, when it really should sit with parents. Focus on how to help parents.

  24. Stan Jester

    When students pass 2 of the 106 AP exams taken at MLC and only 1 student passed 1 AP exam of the 133 exams taken at McNair HS, that is an indicator that their is a systemic issue. Furthermore, tax payers are paying for those exams … what a waste of money.

  25. Kim Gokce (DIO's Butt Munch)

    Run Amok, the either/or view of academic vs non-academic pathways is for me one of rhe fundamental false traps we present in this dialog. “Vo-tech” isn’t for kids who “aren’t college material.” Integrated learning and project based learning in programs like Youth Entrepreneurs are for kids interested in going to work AND going to college. Our kids need academics AND practical application of what they learn.
    I think this AP topic is more productive than most here and applaud the dialog. I simply reject the classic idea of “votech” kids vs college kids. I’ll also overlook your dig at CK and I remain a shameless promoter of them.
    Here is a good promo on Youth Entrepeneurs. CK was a beta site and has become a valued partner in the program. http://ckmoments.weebly.com/press.html

  26. Kim – not a dig. A fact. 30% of CKHS kids pass the AP exam. That’s neither here nor there except to say that maybe 70% of them have other skills in which college isn’t appropriate. This entire argument that college is for “everyone” is pure nonsense. As I said, I am lucky to be able to change a lightbulb, I don’t have technical skills. But there are plenty that do and those should be encouraged to enhance those skills. God made all of us as unique individuals and to try to force college, AP classes on someone who has different gifts is depressing and frustrating for a kid and a waste of taxpayer dollars. Likewise, if you put me in front of a car engine and told me to fix it, I would last 3 minutes before I got highly frustrated. And believe me, I’ve tried to get more technical. I just don’t have those God given gifts.
    So, I stand by my statement. Some are just not college material. That’s not a good or bad thing. We need to get it out of our lexicon to stop equating not going to college as being a “failure.”

  27. Kim Gokce (DIO's Butt Munch)

    The fact isn’t what constitutes the dig. But that’s ok. I just wanted to acknowledge that I still read and care.
    I will take the challenge to understand … how do you determine “college material” then? What is the threshold? How do you measure it? GPA? IQ? AP participating or passing like discussed here? SAT? ACT?

  28. chamblee getting screwed

    Gokce for sainthood!! (In his own mind….)

  29. There was no dig, Kim. You are overly sensitive.
    As far as determining college material, there are plenty of standards that exist as to determine where there is a fit for college and where there is a fit for other occupations. The key is identifying what is the best fit for each particular child. Part of that may be quantitative and part of that may be qualitative, and part of it may be self identified. Why force a child to try to go to college when their skill set says otherwise just because Kim Gokce and Barack Obama think that “everyone”should go to college. Why spend taxpayer $ on AP exams for students who have no interest nor aptitude to take the test? I would rather the county pay for 2 or 3 tests for a kid that can’t afford it and has the aptitude than one who is just going through the motions.
    Answer me this, Kim – What is a better use of resources and what is more beneficial – giving those 30% of Cross Keys kids not just one free AP exam, but 3 free AP exams? Or giving everyone who wants to take an AP exam the chance to take one, even though 70% will fail. And in many other schools its 90%+. Quite frankly, I’ll put my dollars on giving the kids with potential who may not have the means to take any more than the one test (the free one) and actually have a snowball’s chance in hell of passing the test. This gives them the opportunity to ultimately take more AP tests (on the county’s dime) and potentially gives them MORE college credit than wasting dollars in resources on kids who are merely going through the motions. Heck, you may have enough money left over to give those kids who don’t have the AP aptitude the ability to customize a program for their needs/strengths.
    I know it runs against your egalitarian system, but it benefits everyone to not pay for every Tom, Dick, and Harry to take it.

  30. Shouldn’t the point really be to prepare the students better in the AP classes, so that they will pass the test? Regardless of who pays for it. I’m guessing that the kids taking the test are the ones that enroll in the AP classes, not just any random student.

  31. Kim Gökçe (DIO's Butt Munch)

    Run Amok, I see you’re more interested in doubling down on truculence than dialog. Sorry. Life’s too short and my apologies for attempting to expand the dialog. As you were – seems my name is a red cape for some of you guys. This was a productive thread briefly there.

  32. Kim – If fact-based dialog is too much for you to handle, then I’m sorry. But I do appreciate your usage of SAT words to show off your vast vocabulary. I’m quite impressed. Unfortunately, you’ve used it in the wrong context and with a meaning that is not meant nor intended by my posting. If you view facts and discussion as being “truculent,” then maybe you need to retreat back into your snowflake world where everyone agrees with you.
    But I note you didn’t answer my question. If the money that is being used for the vast majority of Dekalb County students to fail the AP exam (56-65% of all AP tests given in the past 3 years have resulted in FAILURE), wouldn’t it be better for that money to be used for those that are serious students and who maybe can’t afford to take a second (or third) AP test to get the opportunity to do so?
    Put on your big boy pants and answer the question.
    And P.S. – it’s not all about you…

  33. @Scott,
    DCSD doesn’t offer Honors classes. They offer Grade-Level, Accelerated and Gifted flavors of classes. Neither of these receive any extra quality points for calculating grade point average. AP grades get an extra “quality point” for gpa calculation because of the level of rigor.
    You said that “AP shouldn’t be a class; it’s just a test that should translate into clearing some credit hours at college.”
    Well, the College Board decides what AP is, and high school classes labeled “AP” must be taught by a teacher who has the AP credentials required by College Board.
    The AP exam is used to determine whether a student learned enough to result in college credit. Students can take AP exams even if they haven’t taken an AP class. Maybe that’s what you meant.
    Each college decides whether they will award AP credit, what AP exam score is required to earn the credit, and what specific college class is earned by each particular AP exam score. Some colleges are generous and some are not.
    I do not subscribe to the philosophy that all students benefit from taking an AP course. AP is demanding. If the student doesn’t have the proper background and isn’t willing to spend many hours outside of class studying, then I think it’s a waste of time and probably very discouraging to the student. Using DCSD funds to pay for their AP exams is a waste of money.
    My kids experienced this. As sophomores they were bright but not committed enough. Dropping from AP level to the gifted level was perfect for them. Had they stayed in AP level I don’t think they would have mastered much. As juniors and seniors they chose several AP courses in appropriate subjects and did quite well. In addition to the specific knowledge and college credit they gained confidence and critical thinking skills.
    You also state “As with so many issues, everyone is putting too much of the credit/blame on the schools, when it really should sit with parents. Focus on how to help parents.”
    I think that schools already meet parents more than half-way when it comes to AP classes. Most high schools have special AP nights so that parents and students can find out about the pace and rigor of the class. College Board’s website has extensive info on AP courses. I frankly don’t think DCSD should spend any more money on this. If the student and parents aren’t committed enough to take advantage of these resources I don’t see much chance for success in an AP class.

  34. Kim Gökçe (DIO's Butt Munch)

    No, Run Amok, I will not go out with you.

  35. Fed up retired teacher

    The hiring of professionals with certification in administration and supervision would solve some of our problems. The six digit payroll people should have this type education degree and should be out in the schools unannounced to observing the teachers every quarter or semester. There is none if any knowledge of classroom activities other than yearly evaluation by principal and believe you me word gets out to be prepared. Subs come in and no lesson plans! In the ’70s Friday you could not leave until lesson plans were in principal’s hand or box and Monday they were in your box with red marks on things needing to be corrected in plans. He/she had read and evaluated them. These high-paying administration need to be in the classrooms not sitting behind a desk. If only we had the iron hand again, many didn’t like Jim Cherry but he got the job done. And DEKALB was ranked high in the nation. You were not hired unless you had a Master degree or sign agreement to get it soon.
    My husband retired 20 yrs ago after 47 yrs in junior and senior college his doctorate is administration/sypervision and he was chair of a discipline and observed teachers unannounced, evaluated and made the decisions to retain or not rehire teachers. DEKALB needs more supervision of teaching activities in classrooms. Make these people earn their pay!

  36. Kim Gökçe (DIO's Butt Munch)

    Fed up – I agree completely. I’m not an educator but I have seen over and over again how important an effective principal can drive higher expectations and performance of junior or under-performing faculty. Having a strong principal that has the competencies to do this and the leadership skills to gain the respect of the senior and higher performing faculty members is priceless. It also helps to have such a person stay in place because it can take time to bring about the needed changes in a school’s faculty and its culture.
    Unfortunately, I’ve seen many CK area principal roles become a revolving door. I’ve seen as many as five principals in three years at one school. I don’t have any answers but I firmly believe it is a strategic problem to attract and retain top principals and DCSD has not managed this well in the decade I’ve been observing.

  37. Kim,
    I wondered if Principal salary was an issue so I looked at High School Principal salaries from the Approved FY17 DCSD Budget. This is for the current school year.
    Region 1 average = $103,232
    Region 2 average = $105,411
    Region 3 average = $115,347
    Region 4 average = $110,856
    Region 5 average = $113,714
    Benefits are added to these salaries. The spread between the lowest HS Principal salary and the highest HS Principal salary is $31,000. That seems like a lot to me.
    I would conclude that DCSD is paying Principals a very tidy sum, although I don’t know what other Districts pay. As a Region 1 resident I am sad to see how low Region 1 Principals are paid. Ignoring school size and academic performance for a minute, ALL Principals have tremendous responsibilities.
    When you consider the incredible changes coming to Region 1 high schools, and to Lakeside HS in Region 2, I am concerned. These Principals will have to maintain academic performance while their schools operate during building projects that will transform their schools into mega-schools of 2100 – 2600 students. Yet on average these Principals are the lowest paid.
    It seems like these Principals should have some sort of incentive or reward for these extreme extra duties. Maybe a bonus? I wonder if the Chamblee Charter HS Principal had any extra incentive, or increased staff, while that school was completely demolished and rebuilt. I suspect not. Yet that was a tremendous increase in job duties.

  38. Kim is correct regarding principals in the CK cluster.

  39. Kim Gökçe (DIO's Butt Munch)

    Anonymous: I like to think, and believe that in many cases, marginal income isn’t what motivates great leaders. That said, when the differentials become extreme (I’ve heard DCSD principals leaving for APS gaining $20k+ per annum), it surely has an impact: if not on performance, certainly on retention.

  40. chamblee getting screwed

    Hey RunAmok – get your facts straight. County actually pays for 2 AP exams if you are on free/reduced lunch. What are the pass rates on those Stan? As a taxpayer, I think I have the right to know.

  41. Stan Jester

    DeKalb Schools pays for 1 AP exam for everybody and the state pays for 1 exam for those on FRL. The pass rates are in the article.

  42. chamblee getting screwed

    What is the failure rate specifically in DeKalb on those students who are on FRL that are getting the second AP test for free?

  43. Chad Peterson

    The issue at hand is whether DeKalb should pay for 1 free exam. The District pays $84 ($93-$9 credit). Last year, 7,894 students took the exam. While the pass rate was low at a lot of schools, the test taking in total was low at those schools. Based on the numbers, I would expect a much lower selection of AP courses offered. I think it is justified to encourage participation in that environment.
    A majority of the exams taken were from District 1 & 2 schools. I would imagine that of large majority of the District 1 & 2 test takers aren’t actually qualifying for FRL (qualify for the state exam), while the ones in South DeKalb are. This seems like something that people that attend schools throughout DeKalb County benefit from. I see nothing wrong with that.
    My general impression is, that at least in District 1 & 2, we have a lot of potential to grow the schools with families that are already living here if we offer a more compelling option. This isn’t a big step toward offering that more compelling option but it is at least something.

  44. @ Chad: The number of tests taken in the system last year was 7,894, not the number of students. Many students took multiple tests, so what we really need are the true number of students who took how many tests.
    Did one student take 1, 2,3 or more tests? Let’s just take a third of the 7,894 which is 2,631 students took an AP exam last year. The county spent roughly $221,004 on one exam for those students. When you take 7894 and multiply it by 9 you get $71,046 (College Board Credit $). My question is where is this money going and why is not being used to help tutor and get needed supplies for the classroom to help these students and teachers?
    If you take the $71,046 amount and multiply it by 10 you get $710,460. I use 10 because I have been asking this same question for 10 years now and no one nowhere wants to answer it. When you think about it like this our students and teachers have been missing out on a lot of extra materials that could be helping them in scoring/passing AP exams would you say?

  45. Fed Up Retired teacher

    This story on TV concerning the bathroom at Lithonia Middle School is one of the issues I mentioned in a previous post. The buildings are a big mess. Maintenance is a joke. The workers come out spent some time and problems are not corrected. No supplies (soap, toilet paper, etc). Schools with lead in water and what has been done? Water is still running at water fountains and lunchroom.
    So many seem so concerned about the AP tests. What about the students in the building and their needs being met. Broken Air conditioners and heating problems continue
    Classrooms without certified teacher. And I could go on and on. What the heck is GREENE doing to improve our school system. Same as last 3 or 4 supers…NOTHING but drawing a fat paycheck.

  46. Simply placing all of these kids in magnet schools and AP courses and expecting excellent results by osmosis is magical thinking. Just because the data says that those who pass AP courses (nationwide) do better in college, does not mean that all who take AP courses are going to do well in college. I have to wonder if there isn’t a teaching problem in addition to a learning problem…

  47. BTW, I’m sure you’ve all seen the news — two students who are athletes in DeKalb schools (Chamblee and Arabia) – looking at full college scholarships – are now facing life in prison for committing murder during a drug transaction. Plus, a teacher was charged with sexual assault. >> A DeKalb County high school coach is facing a charge of sexual assault. Darrell Lake, 30, was taken into custody March 6 at Cedar Grove High School. >> MORE >> William Plummer, 41, who worked at Elizabeth Andrews High School, was arrested October 6, 2016 and charged with three counts of sexual assault. >> A DeKalb County middle school teacher and coach, Quinton Wright has been arrested after a mother claims he allowed students to have sex in his classroom closet. >> Also, Ronald Wright, a volunteer coach at Ronald E. McNair High School, was arrested in August after a student said he touched her vagina while rubbing muscle cream on her inner thighs. >> There are more … Pity the poor teachers who really are trying to do a good job among this seemingly out of control illegal activity all around the district. Where are the school system police? Last I heard, taxpayers were paying over $19 million annually for cops in DeKalb schools.
    But hey, let’s all turn a blind eye to all of this bad news and focus on enabling ALL students to take AP courses! (Do we even have enough qualified teachers to teach all of these courses?)

  48. Fed Up Retired Teacher

    CERE you and I think alike. Qualified certified teachers are the answer to DeKalb’s problems. HR has not done their job correctly in years and years. There are excellent teachers out there wanting to teach but many complete applications and they never hear from the county.
    Go back to the days of teachers with Masters. Young graduates eager to teach the next generation. Really vet these prospects and see how they did in college or if teaching somewhere check their performance/progress in educating children. Recruit from Mercer, Ga. State, Other teacher programs top graduates and you won’t have the need to go to India to bring teachers in, but the atmosphere in the schools must change. There is a general overall feeling the teachers are not appreciated but merely there as an adult in a classroom. Show them some respect. So many hires are sorority sisters church friends, etc. you are missing out on top graduates eager to do their jobs well.

  49. I just want to some basic competence in the classroom. Is that too much to ask?

  50. I hope that everyone realizes is that most colleges in GA do not promote DeKalb as a place to go and do your student teaching. If you as a student teacher and your college does not promote DeKalb do you think a newly graduated teacher is even going to look at DeKalb, heck no. They are going to look at the county they student taught in because it is familiar to them. Remember, we are on a major teaching shortage right now. Young adults are just not majoring in education because the pay, stress and work load is not worth it to many looking at a better paying job. The number of teachers quitting/retiring is greater than those that are entering the job force every year.
    What the school board should be asking the Superintendent is .. 1) How many students teachers do we have every year? 2) Where are they coming from (colleges)? 3) How does this compare to other metro counties? If we are not getting a lot of student teachers from major colleges in GA, then why isn’t the Superintendent asking the Deans at these colleges why do they not promote DCSD?

  51. Chad Peterson

    Lynn, is the $9 credit the AP gives not just a reimbursement for proctoring the exams and providing the space? Why wouldn’t that just go back to repay the direct costs and any leftover going into general revenues? It seems to me that the costs of having AP courses far exceed $9 per student.
    But I never took an AP course, so maybe you go to a testing center to take the exam. Not sure why they would give the $9 then.

  52. Chad Peterson

    I’ve only been to schools in District 1. I’m surprised young teachers aren’t interested in teaching in District 1.
    I can’t understand why we would have trouble finding teachers in south DeKalb either. It seems like both areas are pretty attractive from a location perspective. But then again, that’s probably why we are able to offer lower salaries.

  53. My local elementary school is seeing 3 leave at the end of this year. 2 to pursue non-teaching jobs, and 1 is going to another district to teach. Like another poster said, lots of talent leaving DeKalb county.

  54. @ Chad – Proctors are parent volunteers…. FREE! Test are held at the school, so no need to pay for an offsite testing site… Again, FREE! The only cost that a school would incur is pens, pencils, scratch paper and Kleenex. I would say the max out of pocket would be $150 per school.

  55. Fed Retired Teacher

    The posting concerning poor students thinking they won’t have money or can’t afford college is false.
    There are so many grants, scholarships, monies available today there is NO reason except grades to attend
    GREENE has to work toward changing the terrible failing, perspective view of the county’s education system, improves the teachers’ morale you won’t see new graduates applying. I know I would not recommend the county for children attending or teachers working here. Time for improvement!!

  56. Chad Peterson

    Lynn – But the $9 is for exactly what I thought. AP is using our facilities and we are arranging proctors.
    Let’s say you offer an AP class and it’s only got 15 people instead of the typical class size. I’m assuming they still have the class even though its not technically full. The cost of this type of underutilization is well above $9 per student. So, while its great that parents proctor to cut costs, it’s also the case that $9 doesn’t come close to reimbursing the District. Revenues should go into general revenues IMO.

  57. Most schools will not offer an AP class unless they have a full class per DCSD standards. You can’t make kids take an AP exam, it is all voluntary. Most times a full class of students will take the test because they want to or we as parents push our students to.
    From what I can best guess, the county is wasting more on 4 central office staff members to get a raise, add a new position, and keep an HR director at the $100+ level than what it will cost the county in AP testing this year.
    IMO the extra money collected by AP exams should be used to help students and teachers who take/teach AP exams/classes with remediation and more in-depth learning.

  58. chamblee getting screwed

    The only schools that should offer AP classes are Chamblee, Lakeside, Dunwoody, and DeKalb Arts. None of the others have the numbers. They are wasting taxpayers money.

  59. Russell Carleton

    And if you’re a smart kid born in the wrong neighborhood… ¯_(ツ)_/¯

  60. chamblee getting screwed


  61. I am wondering this question and I hope that others out there can answer this question. Does any HS in DCSD pay for proctors for AP test? I know many schools use parent volunteers to help with the test (that is free) but I am under the impression that some schools hire proctors (which yes does have a cost). I am just trying to find out where the extra money is going. Also, it goes back to why isn’t DCSD having a SOP across the board to all schools?

  62. AP Classes Are a Scam
    The College Board earns over half of all its revenues from the courses—and, in an uncertain environment, students keep being suckered.
    Fraudulent schemes come in all shapes and sizes. To work, they typically wear a patina of respectability. That’s the case with Advanced Placement courses, one of the great frauds currently perpetrated on American high-school students.
    That’s a pretty strong claim, right? You bet. But why not be straightforward when discussing a scam the scale and audacity of which would raise Bernie Madoff’s eyebrows?

  63. I have a question that I thought I posted here a while back but I must have not. We all know that each school is getting money back from College Board for the AP tests (some schools more than others). Do schools pay people to proctor the test or is it all parent volunteers? I am just trying to figure out where they extra money is going since I can’t get a straight answer anywhere.

  64. Lynn,
    Why not send an email to the Principal at your high school and ask directly how the College Board “refund” is used? If your school charges students more than the $89 AP exam fee that College Board charges, why not also ask how that extra amount paid by students is used?
    Apparently no blog readers know, but your Principal does. It’s difficult for a Principal to ignore a reasonable parent email (although not impossible!)

  65. I am not getting information from any principal(s) at LHS (10 years) or CHHS (1 year). I am just one person asking this question and it is easy not to answer this question. I am hoping that more parents will jump on board and ask their principals. A voice of many can do so much more than a voice of one.

  66. chamblee getting screwed

    This is a collassal waste of tax payer funds. These kids have no business taking these tests.

  67. I know there are very bright and intelligent students in every school. I also know that there use to be specail training that a teacher would have to take in order to teach AP Classes. Has the school system taken any steps to see what is causing the low scores in some schools ? What kind of support or help do the teachers get?
    I would like to share with you an instructional visit to a school . This visit occured about 3 weeks ago. The principal told the staff that there would be visitors coming from the school system to visit classes. He stressed that staff should select students and prepare them to answer questions. He told staff that they should be up teaching and engaged. So even teachers that do very little were actually teaching.
    Everyone knew the time and date of the visit. At the end of the visit, the culinary department fixed and served them a special meal. After the visit, the principal told us that everyone was really impressed. After the visit things went back to just like they were before. Our principal rarely visits classes or gets out of his office.
    If the district level officals really want to get a true look at what occurs in schools, this is not the best way to conduct a visit.

  68. CGS, did you read the ‘Inspirational’ post? Not all students are good testers, but all have the potential to achieve great things. I have taken AP classes, and aced some of the tests and didn’t do so well on others, such as AP Latin, but that doesn’t translate into not learning a good amount in each of those AP classes. Perhaps not enough to earn college credit, but that isn’t always the point. I didn’t know I would fail an AP exam until I received the scores and tried my best. I don’t see a problem with the school system paying for 1 or 2 of the exams. It is a direct benefit to the student taking the test, as opposed to other budget categories.

  69. Jen, what if every student at a school fails every test? Is that an indicator that something at that school has gone awry?

  70. In my opinion, I think the classes are too watered down at the high school level to teach the curriculum needed to earn a passing grade to opt out of college classes. True AP classes should have the rigor of college courses and I don’t think most Dekalb HS classes are at that level, thus the students don’t achieve high scores.

  71. The passing rate is quite high at some high schools in DeKalb.

  72. I’m guessing some schools have better teachers than others. Higher pay for teachers may attract more talent. The DCSD can start there.

  73. If some schools have all the good teachers, seems like that would be a problem. At the schools where everyone fails the AP exam, perhaps that students would be better served by paying the teachers more instead of paying for AP exams the students aren’t prepared for. Those schools would perhaps get better teachers.

  74. I was impressed by the physics teacher that Dr. Ingram spoke of in her presentation that was set to retire but stayed on one more year for her Senior year. Invest in great teachers, and they will in turn invest in students.

  75. There are many good teachers. But there are teachers that need support. I know in a perfect world you would have people at the school level to support all teachers. I know that a principal monitors teachers, but who monitors the principals?
    Since some schools are doing well on AP Exams and others are not, has any one looked into the reasons? Is there a difference in the way that the classes are being taught? Is there a difference in the requirements from school to school on which students are eligible to take an AP Class?

  76. All good questions.

  77. …DeKalb Superintendent Stephen Green – “This is part of a whole systemic effort that ties to My Brother’s Keeper or My Sister’s Keeper. What I’m pleased to hear is that contrary to popular belief, that “when you increase the number of students that the overall score will go down”. We are increasing the pipeline and the scores are going up. That’s what is most impressive to me.” … So your data shows just the opposite. How can Green lie like that? Oh – I forgot – the job of superintendent is a political one. Isn’t he about ready to cash in his pension?!