As AP testing season approaches full swing, students are gearing up for the big test. But why does Minnehaha require all AP students to participate? Vice principal and academic dean Mike DiNardo clarifies Minnehaha’s AP policy.
Why does Minnahaha have an open AP enrollment policy?
“There’s a lot of research that shows that taking on the rigors of an AP course helps prepare you much better for college…no matter how they [students] do on the exam, just getting through that kind of material and having to think that way at that higher level is better preparation. So, we really feel strongly that the preparation is good and want to give kids a chance if they’re interested in the course and they want to take on that kind of rigor.”
How does senior ‘sliding’ effect Minnehaha’s average AP score?
“Because we require all of our students to take the exams, which a lot of other schools don’t do, a lot of schools will pick and choose, we’ve always had the policy that if you’re going to take the course, a big part of the course is prepping for the exam. We want kids to see the benefit of that. The hard thing becomes, you hear a lot of ‘oh the school I’m going to isn’t going to accept this or that or the other thing.’ Well that might be the case, but we hope that [the students] can take it seriously. We hope that they know [the material] well enough, that they do well. Obviously if seniors do poorly, that effects our average, but we have had an excellent track record, an excellent average comparable to any school that you can find.”
Is the ‘senior slide effect’ very significant?
“It is significant for sure. So, them taking it seriously really makes a difference. Because I would guess at least a third of the tests are taken by seniors and I think for the most part, most seniors take it seriously and feel well prepared and see the benefits of getting that [credit] because they never know what may or may not be accepted at their college or if they transfer. Especially certain universities, a kid decides to go off to a smaller school that maybe won’t accept any [credit] but then they decide they want to come back and go to the University of Minnesota. University of Minnesota has an excellent track record for accepting AP [credit] and a student could easily jump ahead a year if they go somewhere like that. So I would hope that they see the long term benefit instead of just the ‘oh im a senior this doesn’t even matter.’”
Why does Minnehaha require that students who take an AP course, take the test?
“The teachers get an instructional report, which will explain all the different topics in the course, so we want to know how our students overall are doing in those things. I think in terms of senior slide, if you know you have that test coming, you’re less likely to slide. It changes the dynamic of the course. I taught AP chemistry so I know if you ever have a kid who [says] ‘ I’m not taking it’, well for that last month when you’re all pushing to review, and you’re all in it together, it makes a huge difference if suddenly this person isn’t going to take it…where is the incentive to stay engaged in the course when everybody else is getting ready for this test? There’s a lot of good learning that can happen there and if you’re not as engaged, it just changes the dynamic. Plus the other thing would be, other schools, they pick and they say ‘ok you five you take it’ well your scores could look really good if the teacher chose who got to take it, we don’t have that philosophy. We want students to take the courses, and part of that is that you take the exam. We just try to be matter of fact about it, we’re not trying to punish anybody. Nancy and I, the principal, we look at the scores and we care about our scores for sure, but that’s only one part of the course, we know there are extenuating circumstances, we know there are times that students don’t do well and we know that there are kids in the classes who probably won’t do well on those exams, but overall our students do very well so we’re happy about the fact that we can say ‘we have pretty much open enrollment and everybody’s taking the exam.’”
If a student takes an AP course, but does not take the test, how does that look to prospective colleges?
“They want to see your score. Maybe it won’t affect the senior as much, because [prospective colleges] won’t see that score until later in July and by then, their acceptance is done, but for sure sophomores and juniors [would be affected]. If [prospective colleges] see AP on the transcript, they would like to see the score, and I think the more selective schools are going to use those scores to help determine eligibility and who’s really ready.”