To the editor: Another indignant academic lambastes school curriculum and multiple-choice tests. What's the problem? More students are completing Advanced Placement classes — the horror! ("The Advanced Placement numbers racket," Op-Ed, Aug. 12)
Great will be the day when scientists devise a digital brain scan that measures total knowledge and cognitive ability. Then we can stamp the scores on 18-year-olds' foreheads and end the eternal debate over tests' validity. Until then, we'll endure mass-produced shortcuts, estimates, aptitude indicators and tiresome tirades from self-righteous educators.
The increase in completion of AP classes doesn't mean the students are all Rhodes Scholars, but it does mean that teachers and students have put much time and effort into challenging material, an experience that will prepare them for the more focused and advanced college curriculum.
Please let us enjoy our schools' successes when we can.
Steve Offerman, Ventura
To the editor: My 36 years of teaching AP history classes lead me to agree with many of Brian Gibbs' complaints about the curriculum. That said, preparing students for a national exam while teaching the level of analysis and synthesis worthy of a college-level course is not impossible.
Gibbs fails to mention the changes being implemented in the AP U.S. history exam this year. The multiple-choice section he takes issue with has been reduced from 80 to 55 questions, with fewer identification and more analysis questions.
Also, the essay portion has been changed to allow teachers to focus on themes the students can address in short-answer essays, and the free-response question will allow for more analysis. The document-based question stays the same.
While not perfect, the AP program presents additional challenges to students who want to improve their skills of inquiry, analysis and, synthesis.
Gary E. Murphy, Simi Valley
To the editor: The AP U.S. history exam clearly fails to reward powerful writing, which is why the Concord Review was started 27 years ago. Since then, more than 1,000 history research papers, with an average of 6,000 words, written by high school students from across the United States and 39 other countries have been published.
The recognition given to these papers by college admissions offices is evidence of their value in demonstrating their students' ability to handle the most rigorous academic work.
Will Fitzhugh, Sudbury, Mass.