I dealt with an issue this year that my struggling kids had SO much issue getting through the reading and writing required in the course that they gave up and dropped out. To put in perspective, I teach at a 1600 students urban high school with kids headed to Ivy Leagues and kids whose parents never graduated from high school -- all in one class.
Our AP program has no prerequisites and you could fail World History II in 10th grade, take it in summer school and take AP US History in 11th. Our counselors mistakenly tell kids that APUSH would be a good way to "try" AP classes. That said, I want to try to reach as many of my kids who end up in my room in August.
I'm wondering if it makes more sense to require reading on the AMSCO review book, give optional readings from the Brinkley book we use and do a LOT more primary source docs reading at home with analysis and DOING of history in class. They'd have the basics from AMSCO and we could cover the multi perspective part of things in class.
What do you all think? I'd love to hear your feedback!
I have them read The American Pageant at home and we go over primary source documents and analysis in class together. It seems like the issue isn't the program so much as the guidance counselors letting people in. Students who cannot pass World History in the 10th grade should not be placed in a class that is a 100-level college class. I think maybe putting energy and time into helping the kids acclimated book would be the better way to go because, in my view, the AMSCO book isn't really adequate.
A friend put it in perspective for me in a way that makes sense. In a regular class we have to go over the basic information before students can really analyze it. In an AP level class, students should be able to come into the classroom prepared to discuss and analyze with minimal overview from you. If students cannot manage to do this they may just need some reading and note-taking strategies and if that doesn't work AP might not be for them.
I absolutely agree but our city requires a no-prerequsite AP program. Most think it's ridiculous but it's what we've got and a MAJOR pet peeve of our principal to try to push kids who aren't ready from AP classes. It's a bit insane the number of kids in AP each year, especially AP US since it's really better off being a 2 year course.
I'm going to front load skills on textbook reading and note-taking but it's such a pain for the kids who already know how to do it..ugh, maybe I'll use AMSCO as a last resort for the kids who won't drop it but are going to fail if they don't read something.
This might sound callous, but I try to be as upfront as I can about the reading and writing load as well as the pace of the class so that when kids are struggling I can remind them they were warned. We have a meeting with them the June before I have them and they get a summer assignment (reading from American Pageant) that requires them to write a response similar to an FRQ. That is their first taste of the class so they have a sense of what they are in for if they choose to take it. Students choose to take AP and they can choose to adjust their level if it isn't a fit. I find that it is a natural part of the class that you weed out the kids who aren't willing to do it or can't from those kids who are capable or are getting by and just need a little push.
We don't have prerequisites at our school either but we've really put forward the idea that the bar isn't going to change for kids. Students have to meet expectations that are fixed. That isn't something you can say in any other class but this one because you are preparing them for a test and they have accepted the conditions of the class with the understanding that it is an advanced placement class. Sometimes when kids complain it's too hard I reminded them what AP stands for and also remind them that at any given time they can go to Guidance to change.
I guess what I'm saying is that if you try to meet kids where they are too often when they don't belong in the class, you might run the risk of jeopardizing the integrity of the intent of the class. On the other hand, if you are faced with a whole class of similarly unprepared kids, you might have to do what you have to do. I would just be as upfront as possible about what the class is. You can say, "It is what it is and if you feel uncomfortable at any time you can seek extra help. If that isn't enough, then you may want to re-adjust your schedule for a class you can manage."
There are a number of different reading strategies I use with my students. Often times the homework reading must be documented in one of four different formats and I check off homework in class and online. Students are responsible for knowing the material when quizzes, tests and essays are given.
Some of my students fail and dropout for the same reason and problem that Jamie has. Counselors do not honor prerequisites and put anyone in the class. To counter this I give them everything the first week and that scares a few to drop the class. I had 38 students in my AP World History class last year and at least 10 of them did not belong in an AP class. Many of them do not read and therefore are not prepared for discussions, debates, Socratic Seminars, quizzes, etc.
I guess the bottom line is that AP is a college level course and students must be held to a higher standard if they want to be successful in future AP classes as well as college.
I teach low-income students of color who will be the first in their families to go to college. Based on a school-wide assessment, their reading levels vary widely, with some reading a the college level and others at an elementary school level. As I tell them, the bar does not get lowered for anyone, but I will do best I can to help them pass it. They are still assigned daily readings from the Wilson textbook (and the notes they take can be used on the next day's reading quiz), but I encourage them to read from the review books as well.
Several of them struggle through the first semester, receiving low grades and eventually switching out of AP Government. Most of them stay in the class, however, and get a taste of college-level readings, discussions, and expectations. My AP pass rate has never been below 80%, and I think it's because despite their less than stellar reading abilities and work habits, they still learn the material. In my class, they also become experts on the format of the test. They learn exactly how the AP test is graded, can grade their own multiple choice and free-response questions and predict their scores. In California we have a wonderful AP Government colleague named Pete Pew, who runs helpful workshops for teachers. He taught me how to use time effectively. If 5-15% of the AP test is about a certain unit, dedicate about 10% of my teaching days to that unit. I pace my course appropriately, always making sure that I am done covering material with 4 weeks left to spare for review. (I teach AP Gov in 2 semesters).My school is experimenting with a pre-AP summer program for students who are making the transition from regular to AP courses, which will focus on reading, note-taking, studying, and time-management strategies.
I'm definitely going to focus on reading strategies from the textbook IN class for the first two weeks to make sure everyone has a chance to do well and I like the idea of using reading notes on daily quizzes to encourage taking notes during at-home reading. I'm going to try to stick to the 20 minute quiz, 20-30 min lecture, 10 minute review quiz, 30 minutes writing/doc review/project work format within my A/B 90 minute block schedule.
I'll be moving to CA after this school year most likely, so I'd love to keep in touch and get your input on the universities I'm applying to for graduate school. Are you on Twitter?
Just got to reading your post, I have similar issues (but not to such a drastic extent) in my AP Euro class. It's the first AP class they can take in high school, so my numbers start high and usually end up right about where they should be. A lot of them think they should be in the highest level class but just can't commit to the work load quite yet. Some of it is ability, some of it is maturity.
As far as your reading strategy goes (review book vs. text vs. primary sources), which do you think is MOST important for them to do? Start by focusing your time in class on strategies for that text, then expand to other texts. If these are students who struggle with the textbook, they're probably also going to struggle with the primary sources at home if they haven't been taught good strategies for dissecting historical documents.