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 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.

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!