IAN SCOVILLE OPINIONS EDITOR and WILL MUOIO ONLINE EDITOR
Point: Ian Scoville
I have to admit that I am slightly surprised to find myself writing an opinion supporting the Advanced Placement (AP) system after having completed a fairly intense and painful set of IDs (a paragraph describing the who, what, where, when and why of an event or person) for AP United States History. However, it is because of this – the intensive memorization and conceptual understanding – that I am a proponent of the system.
I understand and appreciate all the arguments against AP courses: Non-AP courses can sometimes be equally as rigorous and the classes can be less about practical application than they are about memorization for a big standardized test in May.
But against those criticisms, I understand the fact that AP courses do tend to be the most challenging, intensive, and fast-paced courses in their subjects. It’s how they’re designed to be, and to be honest, that’s why I think they’re most beneficial to students.
High School courses are excellent at filling us with information and teaching us ways to use that information. But, from what I can tell, the four years following our high school careers and the lives after that will not be as simple. We’ll have to teach ourselves more and more information, develop even more analytical thinking, and change the way we work.
AP courses are excellent at building these skills. Although they may be criticized for not providing students with enough preparation for the college-level courses they are meant to replicate, they do provide an extremely important “transition” course for students as they progress to college.
It cannot be easily challenged that the rigor provided by AP courses is incredible – it’s what they’re renowned for. Undertaking a challenging course, in which you are expected to teach yourself material and make sure you are ready for the final exam, comes very close to what many students experience in college. This is why the AP system is invaluable in our educational system.
I personally still believe that AP courses are good for all the reasons critics claim they are not, but at their worst, AP courses are good preparation for a college-level course. Sure, students may not learn quite as much as in the courses they’re supposed to be earning credit for in college, but they are undergoing a course that is similar to what they would experience in college, which at the very least, prepares them for the types of courses they will take.
This experience is incredibly useful to students. The rigor teaches rapid recall of important information and practice for a crucial final exam. The pace of AP courses pushes students to radically change their study habits; the near constant analysis of concepts and events forces students to change how they think and the tests and essays force students to improve their test-taking and writing skills. Everything is designed to force improvement in the students that undertake these courses.
So, even though AP courses are criticized for the way they force students to learn information, this is one of their greatest aspects.
Counterpoint: Will Muoio
A common question that rings around the halls of ASL during any given school day is “how many APs are you taking this year?” Students always ask what their fellow classmates are taking. While it is intended to show genuine interest, the Advanced Placement (AP) system can definitely be improved.
While there are more than 30 possible AP classes available worldwide and 21 available at ASL, there is an incentive for students to pile on the amount of AP-level classes.
However, at some point in a student’s life they will feel impelled to take as many AP courses as possible, especially in their junior and senior years. That additional pressure will only hurt a student in the long run, possibly taking their overall interest away from a class or subject because of all the work they think is involved in it.
It is simply that in the long run you do not need to have four APs to graduate. I am an example of someone who does not load their schedule with APs. I have additional interests such as extracurriculars within the school day, and I would not replace those classes in order to take something that I am not passionate about.
Students who take an AP are expected to take a final exam in May, and as a school we have very high results (90 percent of ASL students who take an AP score a 3 or higher, according to the school). That said, what is different from an AP exam to a regular grade is that once you receive your scores, you are unsure of what grade is seen as OK for the school that you are interested in applying to.
The purpose of APs is to prepare students for college-level courses. However, there is an ongoing debate saying that these courses do not actually help you once you get into college. For example, there is no AP related to the subject I want to study in college.
Many students do not know what they will be doing in college, so the idea of preparing for something they do not know is unhelpful. Not all colleges offer credit for AP classes, so it is not justified throughout the system.
Another issue with the AP program is that certain courses are taken in addition to the regular ASL curriculum, such as certain languages and English courses. An example of the “work on your own meet once a week” is the AP English Literature course. If you sign up for the Monday meetings you are instructed to meet during a lunch time to go over potential readings that may help you prepare for what would show up on an exam. However, there was no real attendance requirement for the sessions, which I took last year. Sometimes students forgot to do a reading or sometimes there were better things to do than spend a lunch period working.
Many AP courses are made available for students to show what their interests are, but you do not need to take AP courses to raise your GPA or get into your dream college. Unfortunately, there is definitely a mindset within this community that your transcript must be filled with excellent scores on AP-level courses.
I would put less pressure on those students to take APs in order for there to be a genuine interest to take the class. Many students feel that they are forced to take many APs in courses that they are not interested in. Students should be interested in the subject whether they have the advanced placement option or not, and I believe that is not the case.