How Honors/A.P. Testing Keeps Smart Kids Out of Advanced Classes By Maura Baker
We’ve probably all heard about honors and A.P. testing, whether it was from a friend who had taken one of these tests, or having taken one of these tests personally, we mostly likely all have some connection with these tests. An honors/A.P. test is a standardized test given to students mostly in middle and high school to see if they can be put into advanced classes. Since these tests are supposed to weed out students not fit for honors and A.P. classes, students in these types of classes are usually thought of as superior and the more intelligent kids in school, but most people do not stop and think about the fact that these tests are keeping some of the smartest students out of advanced classes. But honors/A.P. classes are supposed to be filled with the smartest kids in school, so how exactly do these tests keep smart kids out of honors?
So, Why Are These Tests Keeping Smart Kids Out of Advanced Classes?
Students with learning differences such as dyslexia will find these tests very challenging since a majority of these tests are reading/comprehension based.Of course there are many learning differences that will make honors/A.P. testing more challenging for a student, but let’s use dyslexia as an example. Dyslexia is a learning difference that affects 1 in 5 (or 20%) of people in the U.S. Despite popular belief, a person who has dyslexia is not stupid, it only means that they struggle more than the average person when learning to read, write and spell. Not everyone who had trouble learning to read has dyslexia, and having dyslexia does not automatically make you a rocket scientist either. People with dyslexia usually find their strengths in other areas aside from reading, for example when I was younger I found that I loved being in front of an audience, so I started doing plays and public speaking events. Dyslexia has no cure, and chances are if you are dyslexic, you will be a slower reader and probably not the best speller for the rest of your life, but that’s okay! But these honors/A.P. tests involve a great deal of reading, which automatically makes them more challenging for a dyslexic person. On top of that, many public schools do not know how to help kids with dyslexia, or even teach them how to read correctly in the first place.
Another thing to consider is that since a lot of schools do not understand Dyslexia that well, for a dyslexic student to succeed on these tests, their family will need to have money to spare. For example, the Orton Gillingham Approach is a multisensory way of teaching kids how to read, and is popularly used to teach dyslexic kids how to read. However, the Orton Gillingham Approach is not commonly taught in public schools, so parents often will look for tutors to teach their dyslexic children how to read. But as stated in the article “Can’t Afford Dyslexia Tutoring? Here Is What You Do…” by Karina Richland, “An Orton Gillingham trained tutor can charge anywhere from $80-$100 an hour. Because it takes approximately 60-100 hours of tutoring to go up one grade level, the cost of this amazing dyslexia tutoring would be $10,000! Yikes!”. A lot of families can’t spare $10,000 for tutoring, therefore students with dyslexia will not get the assistance that they are not getting from school.
Is There a Solution to This Problem?
There are many opinions as to how to fix this problem, but perhaps the most effective solution is to abolish honors/A.P. testing and to base class placing on teacher recommendations. Of course people will argue that this will not work because teachers may be unfairly bias with students, but tests are very biased too. Throughout history a variety of tests have been used to limit the abilities and rights of certain groups, for example, the literary tests that were used to keep minorities from voting in U.S. elections. The thing about teacher recommendations is that placement will be made based on how well a student does in that particular class throughout the school year. It is less likely that qualified students will get into advanced classes if the placement is based off of one test on one day. Since test taking is in fact a skill, and students do have “off days”, teacher recommendations will better insure that not just students with learning differences get into these advanced classes but also students who have a passion for learning but may not be the best at test taking.
Are Schools Doing Anything to Fix This Problem?
Unfortunately, reading based placement tests like honors/A.P. testing and even the SAT aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but their are actions that schools across the country are taking to give students with learning differences the help they need. Whileit is a state by state issue, most states have laws about testing for learning differences and special classes schools say will help better educate these students. Some states have “Dyslexia Laws”. These are laws made to make sure kids with Dyslexia. The main focuses of these laws are:
- Defining what Dyslexia is
- Giving teachers lessons on Dyslexia
- Giving Dyslexia students classroom accommodations
- Early identification
We still have a lot to learn about Dyslexia and other learning differences, but it is very important to make sure that these students have the same opportunities as everyone else. Tests like the honors/A.P. and even SAT’s and ACT’sare keeping these intelligent students from having those opportunities. At least there are things being done to insure that everyone has an equal opportunity, but of course, nothing will ever be perfect. However,when we allow everyone student the same opportunities, the world becomes just a little bit closer to perfect.