AP: Another Problem

by Arianna Michaud | editor in chief 

As I write this story, I have just completed a test for AP dual credit English IV (graded on the AP scale), will proceed to attend AP psychology, in which I will receive a rapid-fire lecture over psychologists that my teacher is trying to become familiar with herself because they were added this year by the College Board. Then, I will go to Pre-AP art two. The rest of my day is apparently unimportant due to its dual credit and regular status.

My schedule is considered light for a senior. One of my friends is taking APES, AP government, AP French, AP Statistics and AP macroeconomics on top of the classes I just listed. And for the majority of these courses, AP is the only choice we have. It’s either drown in a class taught to the AP test, or stand in a puddle of 3 inches and do nothing all year. 

AP classes are marketed as “an opportunity to earn credit,” a way to “develop college skills,” and an opportunity to “discover your passion.” I’ll get to the other two, but for now I’d like to focus on the first. According to applerouth.com, six percent of the top 100 colleges do not accept AP credit. Promising, right? That is, until you look at their requirements. The colleges that do accept AP credit require a four or five, something near unattainable by even the above average student. More and more colleges are realizing the AP classes aren’t all they’re advertised to be and are changing their policies to not accept these scores as credit. 

AP classes are not adequate preparation for college and therefore don’t qualify as a college class equivalent. College freshmen that will go to second level classes will get thrown in the deep end. These students have to endure harder coursework on top of trying to navigate their new expectations and environment. However, the College Board makes their courses out to be more than enough preparation. Is saving the money from one introductory class worth the cost of retaking English three times? 

Honestly, I want to take these classes to learn.  I took AP chemistry because I liked Pre-AP, but got discouraged right out of the gate with an onslaught of Cengage work, lab reports, and tests. For the rest of the year, I was stuck in a class taught to the test, which is the hamartia of all AP classes. (Hamartia- a fatal flaw leading to the downfall of a tragic hero or heroine.  A word first learned from the Joy of Vocabulary book which was required in middle school Pre-AP and a word I have not used since.)  Every decision and lesson is geared towards the $40 exam in May, and after that, nothing. In chemistry, we had an extended lab, but in other classes that isn’t always the case.  In my AP U.S. history class, we played games the weeks after the AP and STAAR exams. I can hear you say “Arianna, just take regular classes if you don’t want the burden of the AP exam” but, as a GT student at Johnson, I feel a great pressure to take advanced classes. If I didn’t, my rank and weighted GPA (a hot topic in the courtyard) would plummet. Plus, many other AP students and I, would be bored to death in a regular class. 

An advanced class that is not AP would provide students with the challenge they need to grow without the test. This honors type class would be constructed by the teachers instead of College Board and wouldn’t be susceptible to as many quick changes to coursework as AP classes are. Teachers can teach what they believe is important about the class and can do so all year. An honors class would alleviate some of the stress of working to pay and preparing for seven AP exams which will determine a college’s opinion of us. There won’t be the pressure to fit it all in before May and study ruthlessly second semester for a chance at a coveted five.

AP classes have value, but they should not be the only advanced choice. We are moving in the right direction with OnRamps classes. There should be the variety of AP classes offered in a program like OnRamps or something similar. Those who wish to carry the burden of an AP class are more than welcome to. I and many others, however, don’t want that; we deserve a choice in the matter.

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