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336 Conclusions and Recommendations from the 1990 NRC Report .ing the Promise: Biology Education in the Nation 's Schools (1) "We are concerned that the AP biology course has been modeled on introductory college biology courses that for many students are notoriously poor educational experiences. The time has come to stop designing cur- ricula by the process of serial dilution, in which the high school course is a thin version of the college course, and the middle school course is a thin version of the high school course." (p. 85) (2) "... Serious problems, both philosophical and practical, attend the AP biology program" (p. 851. To paraphrase: · Covers too many aspects of biology in too short a time. · Requires "teaching to the examination." · Diverts academically able students from other high school courses to a college-level focus. (3) We are skeptical whether AP biology is commonly able to provide an exposure equivalent to that offered in most colleges" (p. 861. (4) The report therefore made recommendations (pp. 86-871: · A consensus needs to be reached as to what the AP biology course should be. The present policy of modeling the AP course after a composite view of college courses is missing opportunities for gen- erating a unique high-school experience, providing a more realistic introduction to experimentation, and providing better college prepa- ration. Although the recent inclusion of quantitative experimenta-
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BIOLOGY lion in the AP Program was needed and is commendable, an intro- ductory college course may not be the soundest educational experi- ence for students who have time for a second course in biology in high school. Whether the AP course will develop into a strong com- ponent of biology education or will itself become an obstacle to re- form is unclear. A national body of educators, high-school and col- lege biology teachers, and scientists should make specific recommen- dations about the AP curriculum, examination, and college credit. (See also Chapter 8.) The College Board should be asked to study fully its own record of success, follow up on the college placement of stu- dents, and assess compliance of high schools with its recommenda- tions for prerequisites. · Whatever their form, AP or other advanced biology courses should not be taken instead of chemistry, physics, or mathematics. Nor should they become the "honors" section, taken in lieu of the first high-school course in biology. The AP biology course should be taken as late in high school as possible, preferably in the senior year, to enable the subject to be taught as an experimental science to stu- dents whose maturity is close to that of college freshmen. Even a prop- erly designed AP course in biology is inappropriate for younger stu- dents and for those without maximal preparation in mathematics and the physical sciences. · We suggest that the terminal-year AP biology course provide intensive treatment of a few topics in molecular biology, cell biology, physiology, evolution, and ecology. Emphasis should be on experi- mental design, experimentation and observation, data analysis, and critical reading. Thus, the course cannot be modeled after existing college courses, which broadly cover all biology. Engaging students in direct investigations of natural phenomena without attempting to "cover" the subject matter of the introductory college biology course is judged by this committee to be more educationally sound than the current program. A rigorous examination devoted to problem solv- ing that requires the application of biological concepts should ac- company such a revision. · This course should be taught only by teachers both capable of providing a sophisticated and broad knowledge of biology and hav- ing the ability, training, experience, resources, and time to oversee an independent experimental approach. For example, a teacher who has not had f~rst-hand experience in independent research should not be assigned to teach AP biology. Specific inservice training and certification should tee used to ensure that only qualified teachers teach the AP course. The College Board should take initiatives to see that the program meets those more demanding specifications, but school 337
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338 CONTENT PANEL REPORT administrators must understand and cooperate as well. If AP science courses are to be offered, there should be a line item in the school budget to support them, and they should not be given at the expense of regular science laboratory activities. · The premise that AP courses provide college credit is not nec- essarily flawed; however, the nature of what the credit is for needs examination. A second course giving instruction in scientific reason- ing, based on experimental design, and using sophisticated physical, chemical, and mathematical, as well as biological, principles would in fact provide better preparation for college than the present broad review. Colleges and high schools should both recognize the value of a second course in experimental science taken at the end of high school. Such a course need not be sponsored by the College Board or be designated "advanced placement."
Representative terms from entire chapter: