Dr. Stat

Dr. Stat is a Statistics Professor. This blog is his opportunity to share ideas and opinions about education (especially math education), politics, and whatever else comes up.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Achieving Highest Honors in AP Calculus

From: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, CA), February 14, 2005
HEADLINE: Diamond Bar High outshines World

Diamond Bar High School got the distinction of being named "Best in the World" by the AP (not Associated Press) Exam company, College Board. This DID NOT happen in the USA.

But being named best in the world is less the result of how bright these students are --though they are -- and more the dividends of ambitious thinking. Instead of being the aspiration of a few, they wanted calculus to be a destination for all. In May of last year, 300 of the 3,150 Diamond Bar students passed the calculus exam with a score of three or higher, out of five points possible.... When the school retooled its curriculum four years ago to offer an International Baccalaureate program, it collaborated with its middle schools to lay foundations for a path that would lead students directly to [calculus]. [The teachers] developed teaching techniques when the school opened in 1983 that question the conventional wisdoms of the classroom. First, there's the music. Instead of silent austerity, downtempo beats pulse from a stereo, even as the students squirm over an exam. Also, at the beginning of each session, students watch a one-minute movie clip that has nothing to do with calculus. "Mr. Alcosser makes everything so interesting with the things he says, even the clips from those bad movies," said junior Shashank Ravi, 17.... And it seems to be working. The five teachers' classes are packed, some with close to 40 students....

Readers unfamiliar with the International Baccalaureate are urged to visit http://www.ibo.org/ibo/index.cfm.

I maintain that we know how to achieve high academic levels. The ingredients are not a secret. For some reason, most American school districts are unwilling to use the recipe.