Education: How Smart Is AP?

As ambitious students load up on Advanced Placement classes, critics question their quality

It's 8:30 in the morning, and the day is cold and rainy--conditions that, biologically, make it nearly impossible for the average teenager to function. Yet the 10 boys and eight girls who pour into the first-period Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus class at McNair Academic High School in Jersey City, N.J., seem remarkably alert. Maybe it's the influence of Victorina Wasmuth, their peppy, diminutive math teacher, who exudes a boundless enthusiasm as she introduces a lesson on Rolle's theorem and the extreme-value theorem, which, she explains, are key underpinnings of calculus. Wasmuth tosses out problems for her students to solve and then...

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