BLOG: CUSD Financial Crisis, a Student's Solution

As Capo Unified faces millions more in cuts, one place that has been overlooked could actually bring about substantial savings.

At a time when our school district faces budget cuts ranging from , one cut that would be relatively easy to make has been erroneously overlooked. 

AP classes are college-level classes in which high school teachers literally teach to the test. Starting with homework assigned over summer vacation, and ending with the AP test in May, these classes provide college credit for the average 60 percent of students who pass these tests with a 3 or higher (out of 5).

So why bring up college level classes in the budget debate? Well, after AP testing has concluded, the classes are basically useless. Of course some teachers may assign projects and assignments, but for the most part, the rest of the year is basically a film festival. So why then, must we continue to attend these classes? 

The time between the last AP test (May 18th) and the last day of school (June 20th) is 22 school days. I call this time the "AP Film Festival," but no matter how you slice it, it's wasted time. Most AP teachers usually use this time to either catch up or get ahead with their regular classes. Most students use this time to catch up on homework, sleep or both. These activities can be done without each party's presence.

So how would this proposal save the district money? The most glaring example is the money that would no longer be paid to the teachers for these classes. As stated before, most teachers already use this time as another "prep period." And since most of these AP teachers are higher on the pay scale, savings are increased by substantial margins. The second, but somewhat minimal savings impact, would be in energy bills for these classes, as the days are closer to summer. 

The implementation of this proposal would be relatively simple to achieve through administrative policy changes in the district, and maybe even the nation. First would be an exemption to AP students in regards to the 6- and 5-class minimum rules for sophomores, juniors and seniors. Second would be a policy change in allowing credit allotment for students of these shortened classes.

In reality, the only obstacle to implementation would be the negotiations between the district and the teachers' union, which unfortunately could turn ugly.

I have to admit, I did have reservations about writing this post, considering possibility of some form of reprisal from teachers or administration. Whether you agree or disagree with my proposal is entirely up to you, but you must remember that cuts will happen, and at this point there can be no sacred cows.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Orrie Brown April 14, 2012 at 12:01 AM
A very original and interesting suggestion, Alberto. But I don't think the CUEA or CUSD would ever go for it.
Adela Coronado-Greeley April 14, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Alberto, Great critical thinking!. When many people express their point of view, the best approach surfaces. I'm very proud of you. Adela Coronado-Greeley
Cyndi Wright April 15, 2012 at 05:06 AM
Well, as you pointed out, AP teachers have to assign summer homework in order to complete a class by May. Then you would have to pay them for working in August and let them have June and July off, rather than July and August as the rest of the staff. Then, how would you schedule students who have both AP and regular classes? Would they only get one month off?
Penny Arévalo (Editor) April 15, 2012 at 05:12 PM
I'm sure other kids have had different experiences, but my senior, who's taken six AP classes says he received summer reading lists and had minimal contact with the teachers over the summer (an email here and there). Alberto, what has been your experience (although you guys are at the same school)?
Alberto Barrera April 15, 2012 at 09:22 PM
The only contact I had with my AP teachers during Summer vacation was through Schoolloop messages, and the homework was mostly reading and a few questions.
Alberto Barrera April 15, 2012 at 09:49 PM
I think you may have some misconceptions about what the Summer homework and teacher's schedules are. The Summer homework is assigned a few weeks before the end of the school year, students are expected to complete the homework so that it can be turned in during the first week of school. We don't see our teachers during that time, and to tell you the truth, most people don't do the homework until the week before school starts. As for scheduling, I'm not sure about what you mean in regards to teacher's, but as I said before, we don't actually have classes during the summer, only an assignment.
alphanumericone April 17, 2012 at 05:27 PM
What if students that wanted to take AP classes (college level courses) paid the $36/unit and took the actual college class. If there are enough students, couldn't the district partner with local community colleges to provide an adjunct professor to teach the class at the HS campus?
Alberto Barrera April 18, 2012 at 03:08 AM
A valid, but unrealistic suggestion. Community Colleges are going to take some major hits in funding and it is unlikely that they would be able to absorb the extra thousands of students who would want to take these classes.
Teacher April 19, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Alberto, I respect your right to form an opinion based upon your observations and I admire your guts in posting this proposal. That said, I take exception with the implication that ALL AP teachers do nothing for their classes after the AP exam. I never did. After the AP exam for Calculus AB, I started teaching BC material. Every year I was swamped with calls and emails from parents crying that I shouldn't be moving on. Every year my students whined daily. Every year I just took it and kept on teaching. I take strong exception to the idea that ALL AP teachers "mail it in" after the exam. Respectfully, how many AP's have you had? 4? Yet you propose a national plan based upon your limited experience?? Our AP students might remind you that your sample size is ridiculously small. AP classes are college level. If we want to save money on the high school level, lets cut them out completely. We won't, in part because you and your parents would go crazy and threaten to leave the school. You can't have it both ways.
Dan Avery April 19, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Impressive post Alberto. It's great to see you thinking. I'm curious having taught college English for a number of years. You say that the AP course is designed to teach to the test, which would make it completely worthless for anything other than passing that particular test. If they had actually taught you how to think critically and reason things out, how likely would it have been for you to get three out of five or higher on the test? In other words, if they had actually educated you, wouldn't you have passed the test? If that is the case then aren't we wasting a lot of money with these classes? The end goal is still educating the students is it not? Or is it just getting them to pass some college entrance test? My experience in the college classroom would indicate the latter. The AP kids never did impress me; as students they were certainly nowhere near the level of the kids who were educated in a private school or educated in Europe.
Alberto Barrera April 21, 2012 at 03:53 AM
While I respect your decision to teach after the AP test, I simply do not see the point in doing so. If I sign up for an AP class, it is because I expect to learn the information necessary to pass the AP test, not to learn irrelevant information afterwards. Why should a marathon runner keep running after he has finished the race? Several of my AP teachers have expressed the opinion that we should no longer attend these classes after the test (a small sample of course), but my point of view is a prevalent one among my classmates, and in the end, it's about the children right?
Alberto Barrera April 21, 2012 at 04:43 AM
Both in principle and in real-world results, you are correct, the sole purpose of an AP course is to help students pass an AP test. As you already know, the education system is setup to assess students through tests, meaning that all a student has to do is remember information for a little while and then completely disregard it. The only part of an AP test that evaluates critical reasoning is the essay portion, which happens to be taught in-depth during class. To be educated is to be learned, and to be learned is to have knowledge, so in a sense, I was educated; in the end however, it is only temporary as most of the information I learned is easily disposable. But to answer your question, I did pass because I was educated.
Dan Avery April 21, 2012 at 07:10 AM
Passing a test does not mean you are educated. All that means is that you passed that test. Being educated is an entirely different thing. There are five people on the Mission Viejo city council. Several of them have degrees. One of them has an education. I know this because I have spoken with all five. See what I mean. Never confuse an education for the fact that you have a degree or that you have been educated. That is sort of confusion leads to the comments by the math teacher that lashed out at you here. If he were really a teacher he would have left the system that is in place. Plain and simple. You do not contribute to a system that does not educate if you are actually an educator. For if you are that good, you don't worry about it, you just get another job to make the sort of money. Anyone who is defending the status quo in education today, especially in California, is not an educator. There's a real reason California schools are near the bottom of the 50 states even though this state has a bigger GNP than all but five countries. And it has nothing to do with Unions and whatever benefits they've managed to get for the worker. But you know this. And I hope you keep writing about this problem, Alberto. It will destroy your generation, sooner or later. At least it will from the standpoint of people like yourself who do think critically. Keep up the "good" fight.
Lazlo April 21, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Alberto, I really admire your post but before I comment I have a question. I have a 16 year old son who attends public high school in a different state. In his school they offer AP classes as "honor" classes. Students attend these classes like any other but are held to a higher standard of performance--that is, basic college level. They are graded A-F and are tested by the teachers. AP TESTS are offered apart from these courses and are offered to any student that wants to attempt them. So, the point here is that the classes are taught to a standard developed by the teachers and not to any test in particular...........is your system different than that, seems like it might be....
Penny Arévalo (Editor) April 21, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Lazio, I may be able to answer. Up until this year, our AP classes were as you said. They probably are still that way in practice. The kids were highly encouraged to take the AP test. Those who passed could get an extra bump in their A-F grades, depending on how high a student scored. Some teachers said a 5 on the AP exam (highest possible) is an automatic A in the class, no matter if they did the homework or not. But the ACLU lawsuit (which requires a free education to all students in California) settlement has stopped this practice. Now, AP exam results cannot change a letter grade in a class, because the AP test costs money. Something that costs money is not available to all students. Of course teachers still teach to the AP test. That's why most of the students are in the class, to take the test and possibly get college credit in advance of entering college. The "honors" classes here are the classes 9th and 10th graders who are high achievers and want a bigger workload. There's only one AP class in 10th, that's the first one kids can take.
Lazlo April 22, 2012 at 01:57 PM
@Penny: Thank you for clarifying the situation. I may be wrong but at my son's school student's honor class grades are not improved by the AP test results although it is true most students take the honors classes to do well on the AP tests. It seems to me that if a student has done well in honor's classes and is reasonably successful on ACT and SAT etc that they already have a leg up in the eyes of college admissions folks........maybe the AP test is a sort of ruse, another layer of testing that is not really necessary all other factors considered.......or maybe if ALL students were held to a higher standard while being offered INTERESTING coursework (which does not imply more expensive) the present anxieties over post-secondary admissions could be alleviated. We would then have students who not only could think critically but "outside the box" while simultaneously instilling a real enjoyment and love of learning in our children........just a thought......
Lazlo April 22, 2012 at 02:01 PM
I'm with you on hiring Alberto....
Panglonymous April 22, 2012 at 09:03 PM
What's your take on failure, Alberto?
Dan Avery April 22, 2012 at 10:03 PM
"maybe if ALL students were held to a higher standard while being offered INTERESTING coursework" BINGO! But that will only work if the intent is to educate...If we all took a week and read Paulo Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed," and "Education for Critical Consciousness," we'd clear up a LOT of the problems. And we'd stop blaming teachers and the ACLU for the current mess and start blaming those who are actually responsible. But then I've long maintained that our goal is not to educate our citizens. I think that, at this point, is beyond the obvious.
Alberto Barrera April 24, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Exactly what Penny said, except that the classes are modeled on what the College Board puts on the AP tests. AP teachers have more flexibility than regular teachers in that their standards do not come from the district itself, but from what the teachers believe to be most crucial to a student's success on the AP test.
Alberto Barrera April 24, 2012 at 04:03 AM
There are many definitions of failure, but if you're asking me for my take on what academic failure constitutes, then my answer would be the failure of a student to reach the Application stage on Bloom's Taxonomy pyramid.
AllySong May 15, 2012 at 06:55 AM
Although I'm sure your opinion will be popular among many students I can't say I agree myself. I think "teaching to the test" is unfairly criticized. What does it really mean? If the AP tests do really test our mastery of the subject then why should a teacher be criticized for "teaching to the test." I do however deeply despise teachers who teach a class like it's one big vocabulary test without the actual reasoning behind the material. The financial benefits of not going to class after AP tests are minimal, not to mention, a huge setback for AP teachers. Especially since teachers are human too... motivated by financial security. I cringe at the idea of cutting pay simply because the AP tests are done. As for post AP teaching... I am saddened by our generation's lack of motivation for learning. I can't say I LOVE homework and projects...I would like to have a class that simply learns for the heck of it (no homework and meaningless projects involved). Post-AP test classes have so much potential! Don't tell me a teacher can't fully expand on a topic in 100 minutes without giving us homework for reinforcement. The institution of school is amazing... the idea of going to "a place" with a bunch of your peers for 8 hours of the day to learn concepts and theories previously discovered has sadly lost its appeal. As far as improving the school district financially... we have proven time and again that any form of "cuts" are just part-time solutions... we need economic recovery.
Dan Avery May 16, 2012 at 03:52 PM
You make a huge assumption that the AP test measures mastery. All any test objective test measures is how well one took that test on that particular day. Now an essay exam is a much different thing and measures how well one expressed their mastery of the topic on that given day. If we were serious about education in this country we would do away with multiple choice/true-false testing. But we aren't anywhere close to being serious about education in this country. And that is why we're rapidly falling behind the rest of the industrialized world.
Yeparoo May 16, 2012 at 05:01 PM
"The time between the last AP test (May 18th) and the last day of school (June 20th) is 22 school days. I call this time the "AP Film Festival," but no matter how you slice it, it's wasted time." Why not start the school year one week earlier and end the school year May 18th. Send all the students home for the summer so they can pay for the student furlough. Ending May 18th for all students would save money on both salaries and electricity expenses for the entire district.
Yeparoo June 11, 2012 at 07:14 PM
@Alberto Barrera - Just curious if you were paid a consulting fee for your work product? It seems to me that the District and the Teachers Union are taking credit for the furlough idea, when in fact it was yours. I assumed this blog was 'Tongue in Cheek,' but apparently not so. And I would guess your other post that said "not enough furlough days" was serious. Incidentally, how many furlough days do you think the District should offer to trim down now that you have seen the proposals? Are you sticking with your original recommendation of 22 days? As long as you are solving the CUSD crises and you have 'free time' in school, would you consider taking a stab at the State Budget Crises? We bow to you. Please don't disappoint.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) June 11, 2012 at 07:19 PM
LOL, not by Patch. Patch does not pay its bloggers.
Alberto Barrera June 12, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Trust me, if I was getting paid to do this, you would see WAY more of these(but youth unemployment is coming up later, so we'll have plenty of time for discussion on that). I probably should have disclosed the fact that I've had a bad case of Senioritis since freshman year; my gains from furlough days would be extra vacation time. Looking at the proposals, I would say that both are flawed in that they are applied incorrectly. Most high school classroom sizes are capable of adding more students(aside from intervention classes), the district could do a 1.5 student increase for younger students, while high school classes could take the 2 student increase. Pay freezes should not last only six months, we are in times of austerity. Just as the classroom increases, furlough days should be not applied equally. We could technically end the school year after STAR testing(which was during the last week of AP testing), that would be my preference. Since we can all agree that the budget this Friday will be as good as the last one, I might weigh in next week.
Yeparoo June 12, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Thank you for your insight, We can only cross our fingers, pray, rub beads, or carry lucky rabbit's foot (yuck), that the 'adults' in charge will keep an open mind and read your blog. It would appear CA now has a long term math problem and will need to rethink how to approach education. Maybe better use of technology.
Lawrene Bottorf June 28, 2012 at 01:41 PM
As someone who usually deals with the best and brightest, I too am unimpressed by most of the "AP" student merit. IB is another story. AP on steroids...
Alberto Barrera June 28, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Very few courses in the district are IB classes unfortunately.


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