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AP high school students

Mary Ann Sesma msesma at ZEUS.BELL.K12.CA.US
Sat Nov 29 07:55:20 EST 1997

 Dear Karen:

I find the quotation by Paul Vale'ry most apprioriate.   It is one of those
quotations that I can never forget.
I can only speak from my experience which as you know (if you have been
following my posts, is that of a math, science teacher  and principal in
some of the most poverty stricken areas of  Los Angeles.)  Vale'ry
signficantly lower my anger as I wrote this post.   I do not brag, but seek
answers still.   Perhaps the best article that you can read to get a slant
on this is  "Children of the Garden Isle-Kuaii)  piblished in the late
eighties in the Scientific American by Comer. Also a group of articles
about resiliency by Bonnie Bernard.  (and I simply cannot find the
references)   The issue of resiliancy is prime to the question.  The
resliance child will function--the non resilient child will be "at risk" .

>Perhaps these kids aren't looking at the same kinds of professional lives,
>post-high school as these "gifted" students - law and medicine and science
>and engineering,

I am trying to separate your questions and provide some questionable answers
You really never know who is gifted or not gifted in a language minority
school.( other than special ed students and even that may be questionable )
In theses schools, the parents  (in my experience) have little education,
they work at service level jobs  and may not be literate.    How can they
guide their children to higher levels of education?  Therefore it becomes
the schools obligation to assist in all matter of things.  One of the best
programs in California and in the Western States in MESA (Mathematics,
Engineering, Science, Achievement)  initiated by an extraordinarly talented
lady in Oakland--Mary Perry Smith and subsidized partially by the St. of
California and the Universities.  MESA gets holds of kids in the inner city
at the middle school level and exposes them, challenges them, and  provides
them small rewards.  MESA works miracles.

 etc, that competition is so stiff for. I'd be curious to
>know about the suicide or depression or substance abuse rates among
>"gifted" students are, compared to "regular" students.
 etc, that competition is so stiff for.

No really good answers.    the US Census does not break down categories of
gifted or non-gifted. But the issue of how resiliance is affected often
does.  You can look at a spectrum of families (as I do now) and I can
almost pick out intuitively the kids who are going to be functional and
resilient by about the 3 rd grade.  They demonstrate these by behavioral
manifestations.     You can see a resilient child and a non resilient in
the same family.  However, the family and primarily the mother seems to
have the greater impact.  If mother comes to school in the elementary
grades  and takes parenting. there is a greater potential for success.  ( I
do not mean 100% success).  In California, a program called Healthy Start
is efffective.  California Healthy Start statistics demonstrate  a slow
upward trend with mothers, families and children who have partipated in
this program.  I suggest that you contact the State of California, Healthy
Start Office and request  one of their evaluations.

 I'd be curious to
>know about the suicide or depression or substance abuse rates among
>"gifted" students are, compared to "regular" students.

High school sudents are always fragile.  Drugs are available and easily
obtained.  The predators of the poor make their money this way.  Also--even
in schools that have well off student  bodies the drug situation is a
problem.  The one thing that is good is that AIDS education is increased.
TThe  vulnerability of the honors and gifted are even more so because of
the pressure.   In large public schools  that have substantive minority
enrollment  (poverty levels,  at risk and whatever defines the adolescent
in need) ) they are particularly vulnerable.  Suicide is a constant threat.
A strong suicide/counseling prevention program needs to be in place at all
times for all students at all times.

  I  can only give my experience which may assist you .

On New Years Eve, 1989 at 8 pm I was called to a local emergency hospital
in my immediate area.  I  has been asked to come at the request of the
parents.  In the ICU  on the life support  was my Senior Class President.
I looked over the monitors, and finally located the ECG monitor-it showed a
flat line.
The MD was with me and wanted me to talk to the parents regarding the
prognosis of the young lady.   The MD and I told the parents (in Spanish)
that there was no possibility of recovery, and we left the decision to the
parents.  The parents, bravefully, took the initiative, the young lady was
left on life support for one more day.    I was there when life support was
These two kids were 17 years of age..  They were identified gifted, and
they were taking three AP classes.  I  objected to this load: but  the kids
and the teachers prevailed.   Teachers want "bright" students in their
classes but often they (the teachers) are on ego trips because they can
then identify themselves as honors teachers.    I place the blame on two
issues:  the stress of these AP classes and the expectations  plus .  I
have three gifted kids of my own.  I would never   EVER let them take an AP
class.  After the funeral--I went through the Suicide Watch--Yes, I did
have a strong counseling program in place.  But at the end of the academic
year I had been through TEN suicides and multiple suicidal threats.

Commodity Education:
I cannot see that a tenth grade Biology Class offered as an AP or honors
class which adds to the grade point is substantively educational--as the
kids in these classes will never take Bio until the first year of college
because of the high school requirements.   (unless these requirements are
But the hypocrisy exists: At the present time,  high school principals in
the Los Angeles Unified School District are partially rated  on the number
of AP classes that are in their schools.   Regardless of whether or not the
kids take, pass or fail the exams particularly in the inner city year round
schools.   This  is  a criterion of academic excellence.   Yes, I want high
standards as much as anybody but this situtuation is folly.   As for me, I
am hideously aware of the danger and hate the concept of education as a
commodity. We might as well start on the commodity markets and sell
"futures"  which is utterly sick in the world of human beings.

My best shot is that public schools go to 200 days rather than 163 or 180
days and increase the hours within the school day, and then perhaps  then
we can make sense of public education.

Mary Ann Sesma


Mary Ann Sesma

Mary Ann Sesma                          e mail
1621 Sunnyhill Drive                    msesma at bell.k12.ca.us (preferred)
Monterey Park, CA 91754                 sesma at aol.com
phone; (213)261-5860

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