The Alarming Problems with AP Classes

Ava Soleibe, Staff Writer

This month, NPR stated that “nearly 3 million high school students at 22,000 high schools [took] their Advanced Placement exams.” Students are familiar with the rigorous courses that we call “APs.” IHS offers an extensive range of APs, and when course selection is on students’ minds, there is a weighted decision of pursuing the AP path or continuing with regular classes. Motives are diverse: appeal for colleges and the elements of prestige or competition. All students have had the same overachieving mindset drilled into us since we began taking advanced classes in middle school. Is this healthy when the system is so flawed?

The structure of an AP class is inconsistent and varies depending on the teacher, since these educators have the freedom to sculpt their curriculums as they see fit. In an exploration on AP classes by the New York Times, an AP biology teacher said, “There’s no way [to] cover all of the material in one year, it’s impossible.” When examining the rigor of these courses, the notion of an accelerated timeline is almost laughable. Courses in college have the flexibility of three to four quarters. Since the purpose of APs is to simulate college, the same amount of material is jammed into two semesters. For example, AP European History is the AP class at IHS that I have experience with. Is it plausible to assume that the entirety of Europe’s history can be covered with hour-long class periods five days a week? Then enters the issue of quality versus quantity. I have been told repeatedly that memorization is all it takes to manage an AP class, “for example, US History [is] more about chronology and memorizing facts than any real study and comprehension of the topic,” stated in article by (Forbes) AP students sacrifice learning and application in order to memorize facts, dates, and names; all for the sake of regurgitating a year’s

worth of information during their AP tests. How far will memorization strategies take us? Not as far as diligently learning the material in a conceivable time frame would.

It has been societally accepted that after an AP test, students can find peace in the fact that they never have to think about the chosen subject again. Possibly a subject that they once took great interest in or derived joy from. However, too many late nights, too much busy work, and not enough motivation makes the finish line seem blurred. It is abysmal that we have decided it is fair for students to trade the joy of learning for a year wasted.

One of the major motivators for students to take AP classes is the enticing prospect of receiving college credits. At IHS, students can gain up to five college credits per class. Theoretically, this could save money and time. However, the chances of this have gotten slim. According to Forbes, “Many colleges have tightened the requirement for testing…only allowing [credit] for a five (out of five), instead of including threes or fours.” A study on the effect of APs on college applications furthered this point, “Scarsdale HS in New York went so far as to contact 100 colleges to see what they’d think of the school’s eliminating APs; 98 of them had no problem with it.” These findings eliminate the prime reason for taking AP classes.

The AP system is in dire need of reform. But despite the inconsistency of potential college credit and the perpetual pressure of high standard education, the current system is the only option. Unless changes are made, students will continue to suffer the consequences of a system designed to fail.