What exactly is an AP class?

Definition: Advanced Placement or AP courses are college-level classes taught on high school campuses. They generally involve significantly more challenging curriculum and more rigorous homework than non-AP classes, and they culminate in a high stakes exam, administered by the College Board on high school campuses in early May.

The spring exam costs around $86 per class, runs two to three hours, and is graded on a scale of 1 to 5, with a 3 constituting a passing grade and a 4 or 5 being even more desirable. Many universities offer course credit for a high score, or allow students to skip the corresponding class in college. APs also give added heft to a college application, because they tell admissions officers that the applicant has taken – and succeeded at – college-level work, and the grades are “weighted,” i.e., a B in an AP class is worth an A in a regular class.

Also Known As: Advanced Placement

Because Jane scored 5s on so many of her AP classes – calculus AB, German, European History and so on – she started college as a second semester freshman.


From the Lake Travis High School 2010-2011 Course Catalog:

Pre-Advanced Placement (Pre-AP) in High School

Students will receive high quality, rigorous instruction in all courses at LTHS. Students may choose to take advanced classes appropriate to their interests and academic strengths. Pre-AP courses are open enrollment and are designed to prepare students to be successful in AP classes. The number of Pre-AP courses varies with the students’ motivation, self-discipline, and available time outside of class. Students are not expected to enroll in Pre-AP courses in all core subject areas.

Recommended Prerequisites include:

  • A grade of 85 or higher in a related academic content area course
  • Scores at the commended level on the most recent corresponding TAKS test

Characteristics of a Successful Pre-AP Student:

  • Excellent study and organizational skills
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Persistence in pursuing goals
  • A strong sense of responsibility
  • The ability to become an independent learner
  • A desire to be academically successful
  • Proficient oral and written communication skills

Why Are We Pushing Our Kids So Hard?

This excellent article was written by Jenny Ford and appears in Hub Pages.

Click here for the full article.

Some excerpts:

The pressure mounts, year by year, until they are doing several hours a night of assignments and study. Some of the curriculum content is of questionable value (and I am being generous when I say “some”, here) – I doubt that they will find much of it useful for earning money, developing relationships, or remaining healthy throughout their lives, for example.

However, you have to do what the school system says you have to do, because that’s the only way to get to college. And college is the only way to get a professional job or occupation. And a professional job or occupation is the only way to … what, exactly?

Paid employment is no longer a ticket to permanent health benefits, paid holidays and retirement benefits. Paid employment these days can only ever be regarded as a temporary stop-gap solution to the problem of establishing a secure income.

Instead of running our kids ragged on this treadmill to nowhere, we should be focusing on teaching them the life skills they really need.

To be healthy, wealthy and happy, all our kids really need to know is:

– how to take care of their physical, mental and emotional health
– how to make, save and invest money
– how to communicate and manage relationships
– how to go and look up information about everything else that might interest them

And the comments that follow the articles are just as interesting.  Check these out:

The thing that has always bugged me about the traditional school system is the propaganda perpetuated by the school board that you need a University edcuation if you want to do anything good with your life. It’s simply not true and adds horrible pressure to the kids who are not naturally academic.

I was gifted academically but could not stand the prison like metality of the school system and so I never pursued a College or University education. I educated myself and traveled the world and now am a Professional Photographer just about to teach my first instructional workshop.

There are so many opportunities for great jobs or to work for yourself that do not require conventional education. I think children need to be told this. You don’t have to kill youself trying to obtain marks for a career you don’t really want. This is not what success means in my book.

Many people love University, many people hate it. Both are okay and neither attitude will ensure success or failure in today’s business world.

I agree completely. University enrollment is declining, especially for young men. If you want to be sure your kids have a well balanced education, do two things: 1. encourage them to read on a wide variety of topics and 2. show them how to find information they need. It is impossible to memorize everything – history changes, science changes, new advancements come and go…so rather than dealing with a lot of “facts” far better to be well versed in information research.

Education is designed on a mass scale, not an individual one. That is more efficient, if you can keep everyone doing the same thing – not ideal for any individual, but cheaper to run and easier to organise.

Personalised education requires personalised educators, and we have too much of our adult population tied up in earning their own incomes to allocate one adult per 3-6 kids for education.

I think that teachers are making the mistake of giving too many assignments, and they think that a high volume work load is going to help them intellectually. I believe you can challenge the minds of our youth WITHOUT giving them a ton of busy work.

Why Average Should Be The New Excellent

I am reprinting an article I came across. The original is linked at the end of this post

Are we pushing our kids too hard?

It’s a natural instinct to push our kids to succeed. We only want the best for them, after all. But are we damaging our children by teaching them that their choices are limited to either success or failure?

Our children grow up under the crushing weight of all our hopes and dreams for them. As they master crawling, walking and talking, we plan their futures. We imagine ourselves standing gracefully on the White House lawn, in the front row at the Academy Awards, waiting in the wings in Stockholm, courtside at the NBA finals. The child who absently bangs a few notes on the piano as he passes by is nurtured with lessons, his innate talent praised. The girl who twirls joyfully in the park is signed up for ballet and gymnastics lessons the next afternoon.

All over the world, parents push their children to succeed, to be the best, to excel. And that’s fantastic, except that the reality is that most of our children will not be world-famous whatevers or the greatest fill-in-the-blanks of all time. Most of us, after all, are fairly ordinary. Oh, sure, we’re really good at something or other, and we enjoy relative success in our chosen fields, but are we world-renowned? Are we turning down endorsement opportunities or juggling our schedules to give back-to-back keynotes at conferences on different continents or inspiring unauthorized autobiographies? Are we even writing unauthorized biographies? Most of us are not.


What’s critical is that our kids understand that even though we want the best for them, “the best” is relative. We want them to try, to dream, to reach, but we also need to ensure that they understand that normal does not necessarily mean mediocre, and that mediocre does not define their character, even if they can’t cure cancer or play in the NFL — or even make the JV team in high school.

People can be ordinary and still make a difference in the world. People can be average and still be extraordinary. And before you brush away that word disdainfully, before you discount average, consider this: Average is what you pray for during pregnancy. If you don’t believe it, just ask any parent of a child with special needs.


Dreams matter. Of course they matter. Of course we want greatness for our children. But we don’t want them to be so paralyzed by the thought of greatness that they fail to do anything meaningful with their lives. Life, in general, is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Our children deserve the chance to experiment, to dabble, to be free to aspire to normalcy. To do, without worrying about success or failure. To do. To be.


It’s not, “I’ll love you even if you can’t be the best or no matter what you do.” It’s, “I love you.” That intrinsic, essential, fundamental thing that makes your son your son is why you love him. Unconditional love means you don’t put conditions on it. It sounds obvious, but it’s something that’s easy to forget.

Hopes and dreams are a good thing. They’re an important part of parenting. But an equally important part is to remind yourself — and your child — that those hopes and dreams are there to inspire, not to crush. The only weight your child should feel on his shoulders is his head held high with pride in who he is now, at this moment.

Here is a link to the original article posted on SheKnows.com and written by Abbi Perets:
Are we pushing our kids too hard? Why Average Should Be The New Excellent.

Parents should make their children bear some of their college costs

My parents felt an obligation to pay for their 5 kids college education.  Though I worked part time in college, and I’m sure my parents appreciated it, they never made me feel that I had to.   I would guess most parents would want to pay for college, if they can afford it. This article that appeared in the Austin American Statesman suggests you make your kids take on part of the responsibility of paying for college, even if you can afford to pay for it.  Click Here to  go to the article.

Do our kids have too much homework?

This is a great article about homework over at the Great Schools site.

No two kids are a like and you might think the answer depends on how much they can handle, their motivation, and how much time they have.  And isn’t it true that the more practice they have the better?  Well  in a word NO.   Everyone should read this article. Here are some excerpts:

“How many people take home an average of two hours or more of work that must be completed for the next day?” asks Tonya Noonan Herring, a New Mexico mother of three, an attorney and a former high school English teacher. “Most of us, even attorneys, do not do this. Bottom line: students have too much homework and most of it is not productive or necessary.”

“Cooper sees the trend toward more homework as symptomatic of high-achieving parents who want the best for their children. “Part of it, I think, is pressure from the parents with regard to their desire to have their kids be competitive for the best universities in the country. The communities in which homework is being piled on are generally affluent communities.”

Cooper points to “The 10-Minute Rule” formulated by the National PTA and the National Education Association, which suggests that kids should be doing about 10 minutes of homework per night per grade level. In other words, 10 minutes for first-graders, 20 for second-graders and so on.

Garfield has a very clear homework policy that she distributes to her parents at the beginning of each school year. “I give one subject a night. It’s what we were studying in class or preparation for the next day. It should be done within half an hour at most. I believe that children have many outside activities now and they also need to live fully as children. To have them work for six hours a day at school and then go home and work for hours at night does not seem right. It doesn’t allow them to have a childhood.”

To be effective, homework must be used in a certain way, he says. “Let me give you an example. Most homework in the fourth grade in the U.S. is worksheets. Fill them out, turn them in, maybe the teacher will check them, maybe not. That is a very ineffective use of homework. An effective use of homework would be the teacher sitting down and thinking ‘Elizabeth has trouble with number placement, so I’m going to give her seven problems on number placement.’ Then the next day the teacher sits down with Elizabeth and she says, ‘Was this hard for you? Where did you have difficulty?’ Then she gives Elizabeth either more or less material. As you can imagine, that kind of homework rarely happens.”

“What typically happens is people give what we call ‘shotgun homework’: blanket drills, questions and problems from the book. On a national level that’s associated with less well-functioning school systems,” he says. “In a sense, you could sort of think of it as a sign of weaker teachers or less well-prepared teachers. Over time, we see that in elementary and middle schools more and more homework is being given, and that countries around the world are doing this in an attempt to increase their test scores, and that is basically a failing strategy.”

What do you think?  Is the amount of homework your student receives too little? too much? or just about right?   Leave a comment below!

Great Schools

In researching what web address to register for this site I came across the website Great Schools.  There  are some comments left by parents about  Lake Travis High School.   Most are a bit dated but still an interesting read. Click HERE for parent’s review of our school district.  I’ve copied them all as of today below:

Posted September 19, 2009

school, Great Academics, Top Notch Sports

Submitted by a parent

2 out of 5 stars

Posted August 9, 2009

schools administration needs a complete makeover. It seems that
the students are not the ‘priority’
when it comes to our kids. We definitely have first hand experience. Instead of
correcting problems they would rather justify a coach’s or teachers actions.
Hopefully, this year will be better.
Submitted by a parent

5 out of 5 stars

Posted November 27, 2008

come from the top rated school district in the
Chicago suburbs I came to Austin with
guarded optomism. Lake Travis has exceeded our expectations. The AP classes,
arts and extra curricular oppertunities are great. My son does not play football
and contrary to some other responses, LT football does not over shadow or
diminish the excellence of LT’s other sports (particularily girls volleyball,
soccer and basketball), arts or academic curriculums. At the football halftime 2
weeks ago all the National Merit finalists were honored, not sports players.
Best move we ever made and glad we are in Lake Travis with 2400 students than
Westlake with 5500 students.
Submitted by a parent

4 out of 5 stars

Posted June 10, 2008

a public school, they do a lot. It’s big
and diverse and the staff tends to have
a heavy hand with discipline.
Submitted by a parent


5 out of 5 stars

Posted February 12, 2008

school focuses on a variety of components that help
students on their ways to a better
college career. True, a 98 average barely gets you into the top ten percent, but
the AP classes have great teachers and all other teachers are very motivating as
well. All sports teams have had a turn in the state playoffs– tennis won state
and the well known football team also won this last year. Students are very
involved in the community and full of school pride.
Submitted by a student

5 out of 5 stars

Posted December 2, 2007

school for a highly motivated student and/or college prospect
athlete. Not a good school for those
kids with any sort of difficulty. Expect little support if your kid gets in
trouble, they’d rather you leave than help the kid back on the right track.
Football is what this school is all about. Huge stadium, indoor football field
and a weight room bigger than our Gold’s Gym. They will not build another HS.
They’d like to have 10 Middle Schools feeding this one mega-campus. Again great
school for a college prospect football player. But most kids are not able to
compete in any sports because of the size of the school.Tough to get in College
from this school an an 80% average puts you in the 4th quartile.
Submitted by a parent

5 out of 5 stars

Posted August 1, 2007

institutes of study focusing on arts, sciences, and other
areas, while still new, are a great way
to get students focused on their futures. Fine Arts education, especially the
Cavalier Band and theater arts programs at LTHS, is exceptional, and Agriculture
studies are also growing strong. Sure, football gets a lot of emphasis, but the
Cavaliers generate great school pride. As for parental involvement, in addition
to a strong PTA, the district has an Education Foundation formed by volunteers
that funds hundreds of thousands of dollars to the schools each year, primarily
to programs in this high school.
Submitted by a parent

4 out of 5 stars

Posted June 2, 2007

have to laugh at the comment posted about the
football team being great. It is not.
They can’t get past bi-district level playoffs. $500,000 wweight room can’t make
puny kids bigger. As for kids going to Div 1 colleges – it simply is not true
maybe one in the history of the school Reesing that is it! Football gets too
much $ and attention. Also whites and hispanics do not mix at the school or
socially. About 25% take AP classes, so large amount still not college driven.
AP and honors calssses are excellent and those teachers are really good and care
about their students. Competitive students hard to be in top 10%. 98 average
does not get you in top 10%.
Submitted by a parent


4 out of 5 stars

Posted October 6, 2006

a very good high school. The educators are generally
very involved and focused on helping
the kids actually learn and not just pass tests. There is way too much focus on
the football program at the expense of other sports and extracurricular
activities. A helicopter to aerate the field? The largest weight room in the
state? Sad but true.
Submitted by a parent

5 out of 5 stars

Posted February 7, 2006

think that Lake Travis has a wonderful academic program
that is opening up quickly to include
even more special benefits for our kids. They have exciting new electives and
tons of AP classes that help the kids prepare for high school. There are lots of
extracurricular activities, but the main one is football. Our kids have finally
gotten to the play offs and we have quite a few graduating seniors going to
Division 1 schools. The parents are highly involved; we have a thriving PTA.
Overall, a great school.
Submitted by a former student

4 out of 5 stars

Posted September 11, 2005

a good school. Great sports program.

Submitted by a parent