AP Exams, still chugging through

jdutton2.jpgHello everyone, I really shouldn’t be blogging right now seeing as my AP U.S. History exam is at 8:00 am this Friday, and studying is my top priority, but I wanted to update everyone about our exams and how it’s going.

AP exams began this Monday (May 5th) and will continue until next Friday (May 16th). Personally, this year I am taking 3 exams: Statistics, U.S. History, and Environmental Science. I got through the first one, two more to go!

But enough about me, let’s talk about AP classes. I get a lot of questions from my parents, teachers, and other kids about AP classes, so I’ll pose some to you… Why should students take AP classes? For the college credit, the challenge, the boost in GPA, or some other reason I can’t think of right now? Is the AP system unfair in certain respects? For example, because the tests cost $83 a pop, are the exams biased towards those of a higher economic class?

There are rumors going around that next year at Skyline if a student takes an AP class, they will not be able to drop it. Is that fair? Even if they are failing?

So I’m curious to hear back from other students about why you take AP classes, or how your exams are going, and I’d love to hear from parents and teachers about those questions (don’t worry you don’t have to answer them all).


  • Katy Murphy

    Good luck, Jesse! What a dedicated blogger…

  • Nextset

    The son of a lawyer I worked with started at UC Santa Barbara out of a public high school. it seemed that due to his AP classes he was given nearly 2 years of UC college credit and instead of enrolling as a freshman he started UC with near junior status. He took his 4 year degree in 3 years without a lot of strain (party animal?) and after taking a cram course aced the LSAT and got a free ride scholarship to a private southern CA law school.

    He was accepted at UC Hastings (his father was UC Davis Law), but Hastings wouldn’t give him the scholarship money, so he went to what I thought was a less desirable school to save money & avoid the student loan burden. All in all, the AP coursework and testing in high school paid off big time by allowing him to get through UC faster with less stress and fewer loans.

    I’d never heard of this when I was in high school. If this is the way the game works, the hard work in high school means that your college career can be easier.

  • Catherine

    I am an adult who is returning to college at night. I am the daughter of two working class parents, one of whom graduated high school the other with a GED.

    I wish that AP classes would have been available to me. I am taking classes for which I have read the material and have an understanding, but must show up in class as it is part of the grade. If I had taken these challenging classes in High School, I would have felt like I wouldn’t have had to spend 4 or 5 years in college for a degree.

    I also wonder about “getting a degree” vs “getting an education.” At this point in my career, I need the degree, but I honestly have to say that at 9 units away from a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business I learned as much or more from working for 25 years than from the college classes.

    What I do believe is that if I had taken AP classes I would not have chosen the career path I am in now, but I would have had more opportunity to think deeply at a younger age, to save money on college and to have the “credentials” of a degree so that I would have had a more expansive view of my choices.

    A side note, I went to a more rigorous high school than was in my neighborhood – a “transfer” kid, if you will. I was in typing class and could memorize a whole page of material and type it looking at my hands. The teacher stood right next to me and said loudly “You’ll never make a good secretary.” To which I replied “I don’t want to be a secretary, I want to HAVE one.” That almost got me transferred out of the school – when I was in school a woman who worked outside the home could be a teacher, nurse or secretary.

  • Caroline

    I’m the mom of a high school junior (at San Francisco School of the Arts). I’m not thrilled with the notion of AP classes because I dislike the entire culture of pressure to be an academic demigod, but my son likes his.

    My kid is a high-test-score, erratic-GPA student. So what I REALLY hate is MicroGrade. It sits there on my list of bookmarks daring me to click it with my teeth gritted, and with my stubborn, cussed 17-year-old there is really not much I can do about it when I don’t like what I see!

  • Nextset

    Caroline: There is a point to the “culture of pressure to be an academic demigod”. Seats in higher education, specialized classes, advanced classes are all rationed. There are limited slots for some of the more interesting things with the expensive schools and renowned instructors. They can’t take everyone.

    AP classes among other things allows a candidate to show ability to function at higher level work. It is a way of cutting through the screens set up to filter desirable candidates for admission to advanced training. You can also get prerequisites in done earlier for the advanced classes.

    Like everything else you do it because you are after something you want. You aren’t doing all this work just to be a Nerd. Maybe you’re doing it to be a Nerd with a Job at Microsoft (hard to get) and not just one of the subcontractors. Or Med School, or whatever the goal may be. Anyway you don’t have to take every AP subject.

    I wish all these kids well, If they want something in academics and they have the chops to take it, Go for it!

  • Caroline

    Yeah, I understand that, Nextset. But really, it isn’t a meritocracy at all — it’s largely about having the money and the high-pressure helicopter parents to help you get into the big name colleges. The gap between the wraparound college counseling/handholding that kids in high-end private high schools get — or kids whose parents hire a private college admissions coach — and what kids in public school get is vast.

    Here’s an article (well, really my blog item linking to an article) about private college counseling that’s kind of an eye-opener:


  • Nextset

    Caroline, I don’t think it’s that easy. Wealthy parents can buy great accomodations in private schools that need the cash. But they can’t buy the kid the Nobel Prize. At some point in some fields you have to have the moxie to survive the cutthroat competition.

    As a lawyer I see 2nd or 3rd generation lawyers who have adored lawyer fathers or grandfathers. Sure they can get an entry level job. But they can’t run at the higher levels unless they have what it takes. I know some of them who are pale ghosts of the power and respect their parent had. And the current powerhouse (or powerhouse firm) is usually the self-made man, not the son of a patrician.

    So I disagree with you. In my own lifetime I have gone to school with and worked with the children and grandchildren of Jewish immigrants (and other ethnics) who came to the USA with nothing but the shirts on their backs and muscled aside the children of the old money power structure. Have you read of US Senator Dianne Feinstein’s family history? We can also discuss the Irish and Italian immigrants – take a read at Thomas Sowell’s “Ethnic America”.

    In the mid 20th century these people had to deal with ethnic caps that limited their enrollment in colleges (some just changed their names). IQ and ambition does just fine over money and position in this country.

    And high-stakes testing plays right into their strong suit.

    Good parents are a great asset in getting a head start in life. Combine that with IQ and something to prove or a chip on your shoulder and you have the Great American Success Story.

    Back to this thread – AP Classes, like the time pressure testing, directly play to the strong suit of the cognitively gifted. These people of all races can physically start to segregate from the ordinary folk earlier than ever now. And as long as they are taking all their classes together they can limit their socializing to each other and their families from 9th grade on. As was predicted by that book people get so emotional when I bring it up – we are dividing into separate, unequal societies earlier and earlier. I can see the pick up like at the convention, “Didn’t I see you in the AP classes 15 years ago??”

    Brave New World!!

  • Caroline

    George W. Bush.

    I rest my case. (As far as underqualified, meritless mediocrities getting an unjust boost from their family fortunes/connections/status.)

  • Nextset

    Caroline: I think you assume W has bumbled his way through the presidency. You are wrong. He and his crew know exactly what they are doing. like I said, there is (likely) no accidents. He is not meritless and underqualified. You just misplace his loyalty and his intention. You don’t get elected/steal the presidency by walking around in a daze. And follow the money – there is a profit motive for everything that has happened.

    Liberals and altruists typically make the mistake of projecting their norms and values on others when trying to understand what is going on. Plus they are emotional – have little emotional control. Say what you will about W, he has taken care of those he values – which are not the American People of course. And he is no different from the Black Caucus or congress either. He is just far more effective for his contituency.

    This thread is on AP exams. The readership needs to understand that the USA changed fundamentally after WWII with the replacement of the old guard class (and family and community) structure with a new meritocracy of robber baron self made corporate man loyal only to themselves. The rise of high stakes testing was essential as scoring was now used for advancement rather than family connections. If you doubt this take a look at the pedigree of the current moguls in Los Angeles and New York. These AP classes and tests that students like Jesse fret over are a big part of the trend – which really got going with IBM Corporation in the early ’50s.

    The right people regardless of their humble but cognitively advanced beginnings, use AP and Testing and School Pedigrees to establish themselves quickly in the 50 years human adult lifespans are most active. By these means they segregate themselves from the rest of us and cross over to the corporate and creative elite. They may not always be able to take their siblings and cousins with them because IQ distribution varies even within family groupings. But IQ isn’t everything, see George W. Jeb Bush was supposed to be president. And Joseph Kennedy was supposed to be president instead of JFK who got us into VietNam. Those two were just smart enough and ruthless enough to take the White House.

    Spare us your jealousy over family connections. It doesn’t become us to bemoan human nature – like we are going to magically change it. I’ve seen too many family businesses get bowled over by corporate America and the maverick self made man to worry about it.

    And I do hold Ayn Rand’s opinion of Altruism.

  • Caroline

    I don’t think it counts as jealousy — I’m not exactly aiming to be president, and sure wouldn’t wish it on my kids.

    I agree with this to a large extent:

    “the USA changed fundamentally after WWII with the replacement of the old guard class (and family and community) structure with a new meritocracy of robber baron self made corporate man loyal only to themselves. The rise of high stakes testing was essential as scoring was now used for advancement rather than family connections.”

    .. Nicholas Lemann’s book “The Big Test” details just how that happened. But the intent of the SAT (the Big Test) was to really create a pure meritocracy — well, one intended for white (Gentile?*) males; nonwhite and women still didn’t figure into the plan. But pedigree — family influence and wealth — still does count for quite a bit.

    *My father-in-law went to Stanford — undergrad and med school — in the ’30s, when he was allowed in under the Jewish quota.

  • Jose


    I am a minority who has benifited from taking AP courses. I agree with Nextset. This is a great opportunity for those of us who live in poverty. It gives me a jump on college.

    I understand why you and your son have different views. That is a good thing!

    You have a great skill. Many time when you are asked a question, I enjoy how you take off into another direction. That takes skills.

    I don’t believe in affirmative action or quota programs. It’s just another form of discrimination.

    What was the “Jewish quota” program in the 1930’s? Is this another one of your slick moves?

  • Sharon

    This week I assisted with the proctoring of three AP exams for Skyline High School. Today nearly 100 juniors took the U.S. History exam in a large room at Merritt College (including Jesse, Isabel and Diamond who I do not know, but recognized from this blog).

    I am fully aware that many OUSD students are unable to master the material for these difficult tests. High level skills are required and the range of skill levels is huge within the student population of the district. The achievement gap is another subject.

    However, I would like to share my observations with prospective high school parents who are worried about sending their kids to a public high school such as Skyline. I want to let you know that every one of these students was absolutely focused, prepared, and well-behaved. Your child would not be in better company.

    I guess I’m just doing my part with trying to recruit more of Oakland’s academically-oriented families back to OUSD, and hope that they will keep this story in mind as they make their decisions along the way. Perhaps this information, and the thought of saving a little money, will tempt them. (Bishop O’Dowd tuition for the 2008-2009 school year is $12,700 with addtitional [their website typo] fees of $900. Head-Royce tuition will be $25,590 for the coming school year). Please consider joining us.

  • Nextset

    Jose: I don’t understand your comment to Caroline about having “slick moves”. Explain it to me. I find Caroline to be honest in her views and not ambiguous at all so I don’t understand why you say this.

    In a nutshell, any objective standards in testing and screening candidates for higher education are skewed in favor of higher IQs. The huge problem for the power structure in the USA in the 1930s-1970s is that the USA white average IQ is one standard deviation below the Jewish Average. You might have noticed who is in the advanced sciences and math classes, and by and large it is not the English types. You won’t find the English represented much in the Science Nobel Prizes either if at all.

    There was significant European Jewish migration to the USA in the first half of the 20th Century and these immigrants were not wealthy. But they had a remarkable knack for aceing the brand new standardized time pressure tests that had been invented to quickly and efficiently screen college material. Who could have imagined – especially since the establishment loathed the Jewish immigrants and honestly didn’t believe they had anything special.

    Add one World War and a GI Bill later, the USA Colleges were flooded with applicants with money to pay for college. The Jewish contingent went from invisible to approaching controlling interest of all the desirable colleges.

    The colleges quickly slapped on Jewish quotas, Affirmative Action for whites (Jews were never considered “white”). Applicants were catagorized by names. And a limit was placed on enrollment of names ending in “stein” etc. When the Jewish Immigrants caught on to how they were being deselected they started adopting new English sounding names. Can we say “Senator John Kerry” and “Madeline Allbright”?? Those names are still with us. The colleges were distraught, and played their final trump card. Legacy Points. The children and grandchildren of Ivy League alumni would be given absolute preference. The Legacy system is still in use today. This merely slowed down the inevitable.

    Without anti-jewish college admission policy (such as Legacy points) your med schools, law schools, business schools and lab science programs would look like a German Jewish reunion. 2% of the population has exactly what % of the med school, B-school, Law school, and Science PhD seats??

    The struggle continues but it’s a losing struggle. The only way to stop it is 1>Affirmative action and racial quotas to keep the Jewish applicants out of safe English, Black, Hispanic and Asian seats or 2> subjective not objective admission standards where the school takes care of the racial groups it wants to using any silly excuse of the week to do it.

    One such common tool is zip code quotas (in use now in UC) which stops admissions from the same largely Jewish neighborhoods in Los Angeles from flooding a small schol such as UC Davis Law School (135 seats/year), etc. But even so when you have a national applicant pool….you can only keep out “extra” applicants from the same zip code. There are a lot of Zip Codes.

    If the schools do nothing and admit on the “merits” this group simply has enough applicants at the higher scores to take the bulk of the seats in the competitive and most desirable schools.

    I’m not Jewish, although many friends and professional associates are. I went to school with a lot of Jewish families and we had a blast. Their take on all this is that they will overcome everything thrown at them and take anything they want – one way or another. No tears and no anger, they are going to win come hell or high water.

    All this ties in with the the AP discussion because AP is simply another avenue for any more aggressive and bright ethnic to start picking up the marbles at 13 or 14 or whatever instead of even waiting to reach the college years. The other ethnics can have whatever is left.

    Think of it as the law of unintended consequences. The larger your program or action, the larger the unintended consequences. The creation of the AP system allows the fight for the limited seats to start at puberty where the differences become useable.

    Brave New World.

  • Nextset

    Sharon: Be careful what you wish for. You say you want to recruit Oakland’s “academically-oriented” families back to OUSD.

    Does it give you pause to think that if you actually talk them into it you might get personalities such as mine? The families you speak of are highly unlikely to tolerate Affirmative Action politics and are aggressive and competitive. You cannot run the existing culture of OUSD together with a culture of competiton and merit. I have seen it tried. The two sides hate each other and they will not attempt to cloak or moderate their politics. Mixing them on the same campus will lead to a riot.

    To put it gently, “competitive” people are not politically correct. They will speak the truth in season or out with no concern for the “feelings” of other people living a lie. I went to school with them through Law School. Getting to know the other families and their history and geneology explains their attitude – but it can be hard to take until you learn to admire their consistency. Reading Ayn Rand helped.

    If OUSD wants to get into the academic school game – and I hope they do – they need to shut down Skyline, rename it perhaps (not after any minority), and reopen it as OUSD’s answer to Lowell High School. Open citywide only by competitive testing with UC entrance requirements classes required of all students, with no guarantee of being allowed to stay if performance drops for any reason. No AA, and No behavioral problems or you’re transferred out. Only terms such as that will get the new school taken seriously and will keep out the undesirable students of all races.

    I don’t think OUSD could stand it. But this way there would not be a civil war within the campus since all enrolled would have earned a place and have the same basic values.

  • Jose


    I suggest you re-read my statement regarding Caroline. In regards to the AP program in public schools, it seems to have been created as a method to respond to public school intergration. It allowed white students to choose seprate classes from minorites.

    Do you relize Federal Public school intergaration law and the AP program came about at the same time? What timing! How many Mexicans, Blacks or Native American students do you think are enrolled in the AP classes at Skyline High School? We have mostly whites and Asians.

    There are 7 millions Jews in the United States. Based on the background history you shared regarding the Jews and academic achivement, I’m sure many of those I though were whites signed up for the AP exam with us were Jews. My people could learn something from the Jews.

    You are correct regarding OUSD, they hate competition. I have met several other minority students who relize the same thing. Keeping us uneducated ensures them a job.

    This is one of the reasons, so many of my friends applied for scholarships to attend private high schools. They relized that OUSD has little interest in preparing most of us with the academic skills to attend college.

    Do you relize, we are offered more Multiculture courses than AP courses by the district?

  • Nextset

    Jose: I have no doubt that OUSD, indeed most of the urban schools, consider many minorities barely human. They cloak their distain with pious indiscipline and removal of all standards both educational and deportment. They have as a priority keeping the minorities sedated. And they have gotten away with this since the 1960’s.

    Political Correctness is first and foremost a policy to suppress truth and to keep the natives docile and happy. It has been decided that since the minorities become agitated easily the best way to run things is to suppress anything that stirs the pot – like competition or competitors. Thus the elimination of (essentially) all the white and jewish students who cannot be controlled so easily.

    AP does not fit well into this unless the AP classes are false. Objective testing creates a problem for them because when the urban school students get A’s in AP classes but fail the exams, the masquerade is exposed.

    I had a cousin who went to Richmond schools and got all B’s (a generation ago). He got 400s on his SATs. The family was upset because the SATs were so low they were having trouble placing him in college. They didn’t seem upset at the significance of his bombing the objective tests. When they got around to asking me what is happening I said – he doesn’t read – ever. The only books or magazines in his room are picture books. What did you expect? Their reply was “What about the B average in High School?” my answer – Did you really think that place was a “School”? The B’s were for showing up and not burning the place down, didn’t you know?

    This is why Sharon’s well-meaning but odd post above gets to me. How can she really believe it is possible to bring real students into OUSD? And how can she believe any real parent would take her and OUSD seriously? People may be stupid sometimes but they are not dumb. They have eyes and they can see houses on fire. This process has been going on for nearly half a century and nobody is fooled but those who want to be fooled.

  • Sharon

    Nextset: I don’t have a problem with an academic high school. As I wrote before, my husband attended a community meeting on the Mills College campus several years ago where that possibility was discussed. Unfortunately, the meeting brought out a lot of anger from some of the African American participants. The idea was apparently dropped.

    Maybe now things are different and OUSD is ready. I would suppose that the Co-Chairs of the African American Education Task Force who are hosting the African American Honor Roll Ceremony on May 12 where “More than a thousand students will be honored…” would like to see such a school, too.

  • Nextset

    Sharon: The black pressure groups are not going to support an academic anything. And since when did their anger amount to a hill of beans?

    No progress will ever be made for black students or any other ethnic in OUSD until and unless the polititians tell the “black” political groups that their day is over and no further concessions will be given to them.

    The start re-segregating the schools by deportment and progress, letting the racial chips fall where they may.

  • Jose


    You are one of the few adults who make sense to me in regards to public eduation. I respect that you are up front. I hope to have professors like you in the fall when I enter college.

    I had great teachers in elementary school; there were less in middle school. In high school all they talked about was diversity and social justice.

    I have been working like a dog for the past four years to get enrolled in academic classes. When the administrators see a Mexican it seems they think we must be dumb and enroll us into courses that are not college track. This is particular true of Mexican and Black school administrators.

    This biggest racist in Oakland are those educators who don’t challenge us in this city. It seems they want to keep us dumb.

    What was your major in college?

  • Nextset

    My college major was business with accounting as the emphasis. I had 2 years of economic history with cultural and physical anthropology as well. Other coursework included statistics, computer (Fortran),breath requirements such as photography and zoology. High school included the UC entrance requirements such as chemistry, physics & biology, 2 years of Spanish, & UC math requirements.

    The high school tried to disallow my enrollment in the UC coursework and my parents had to go off on the counselor to get me enrolled in their choice of courses. The counselor objected to taking so many solids at once. That was in 10th grade maybe. We never had that problem again. My PSAT was very high. I started UC Berkeley on the accellerated High School program so I never applied for college with the normal round of applications. I was in UC at the beginning of 12th grade along with several of my high school classmates. High school became irrelevant then so I stopped classes in December as I had all my graduation requirements done. So did everybody else in the UC High School program.

    My self and all the siblings went to summer school each year of High School which got us out of the house early in the am – which was the parents’ plan. It made the completion of the UC requirements easier to plan and allowed the early enrollment in UC.

    There was a price to pay for all this that I couldn’t have realized at the time. By splitting my classwork prior to age 18 between regular public school, summer schools at Oakland Tech, and then UC at beginning of 12th grade I was divorced from the high school class. I was around, but had other interests and drifted apart from everybody. I was working a lot also and I enjoyed that because I was carrying my own weight among adults, loved the $$, and was implementing computerization of back office accounting (Payroll, General Ledger, Receivables). Computers were new then and very expensive and cutting edge. I bought Radio Shack computers and spent as much as a car would have cost. As I look back on my classwork I easily maintained a B average (3.5 hs) but my mind was always elsewhere – usually on rearranging the accounting systems at work. I started in branch banking and retail credit in downtown Oakland at age 18.

  • Jose


    Thanks for the wonderful information you shared with me. It feels good knowing I have taken the same courses that you outlined.

    I also atteded summer school the past four years. This will save me time and money in college.

    We need people like you in public education. There are thousands of students like myself who have been beat down by the socialist nonsense of the secondary educators in Oakland.

  • Nextset

    Jose, Be careful what you wish for. I would not be nearly as much fun or as comfortable as the socialists you’re used to.

    Your tone used towards the other bloggers here does not reflect well on you in my book. You need practice at this public discourse thing.

    As far as your post in #15, remember Senator John Kerry and his siblings did not know they were Jewish until research by others during the presidential campaign provided proof and showed exactly when the name change occurred in Europe just prior to ancestors immigrating. Ex-Secretary of State Madeline Allbright was informed of research on her family line after she was appointed Secretary. They both claim they had no idea. Right… But their stories are typical and I have a close friend raised as Catholic with a similar story. He was the last one to know and the first to admit it.

    And none of these people were exactly cleaning windows… Interesting how life works out. In the first half of the 20th Century there were a lot of survival mechanisms at work. The strong surviving and all that. Other people were busy “passing” also, but that’s another story.

    And another thing, students from OUSD I’ve seen post here have a habit of using a lot of gushy terms… “wonderful” information? I’m am not the Oracle at Delphi you know. All you are getting from me is another view of a problem and solution. You can go on all, some, or none of it. Don’t take anything I say as carved on concrete tablets until you have tested it and run it around in your own research. That should take about 10 years.

    At 18 or whatever you are you are too much in danger of being besotted by the last person you have talked to. I myself voted for McGovern for President once. Can’t even remember why. Probably had something to do with someone named Debbi.

  • Jose


    Who ever met a “fun” socialist in a high school? I just enjoy teachers who expect effort and get you to thinking at a higher level.

    I spend very little time on the computer during the week. I use the time for my school work. I’ll check in during the weekend.

    Thanks for the insight.