Jay Mathews is an arrogant prick.
Here's my problem with this dweeble brain: His rhetoric belies the same problems plaguing the current politicos' take on education, a la NCLB propaganda. Too much fluff. Talks a good game about leveling the playing field and counting hard-working schools in the lower socioeconomic strata for his "Top 1200," but then uses a measure that is EXCLUSIVELY bought--taking the AP test (which runs about $80/per head). So misguided, struggling districts looking to improve their reputation, like mine, shell out all but $15 of that cost to rank higher in his little schema on his little list, instead of putting that money towards high quality textbooks or cutting class size or raising teacher salary or SOMETHING else that has PROVEN to raise test scores and raise the quality of education for students. The little buggers don't even have to take the class to rank for his "challenge index" which was the thing he was TRYING to measure. What a moron!
And it worked. PG schools got higher on the "challenge index" than ever--many outrank Roosevelt, which has the best rep in the county for AP. Why? Because challenge index score = # of tests/graduating seniors. Other schools in this county have very low graduation rates for students (last I checked, ours is in the 90s, PG averages in the 60s, many schools less), which means a lower number in the divisor, and while other schools have lots of students testing, few get higher than a 2 (considered failing), while most of our kids get 3 or higher. I think last year something like 3 students in the whole county got a 3 or higher on one of the English APs who didn't attend Roosevelt... It's a BIG county.
We have advantages, like a science/tech program that attracts students from all over the county, and Old Greenbelt is a staunchly middle class area, but our "neighborhood" kids do well also, not just the elite.
Now College Board is launching this "audit" in an effort to validate the level of courses with the AP label precisely because thinking like Mathews inclines boards of ed and administrators to put a pretty title on classes to get higher rankings, better support from parents, and the appearance of a better education for all. Yet, test scores stagnate. College Board blames inadequately challenging curricula in courses labelled AP (of course the obnoxiousness of the AP audit is a whole other rant!).
I'm looking forward to a broader perspective on education after teaching in another country. This system is giving me a headache!