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The Campus Lantern

Students in APs gain rigor, lose opportunity

Part 1 of a series about AP classes
Students in AP BC Calculus

Some AP classes are “less [about] mastery, and more like throwing as much stuff at you as [they] can and seeing if you can retain [it],” said senior Ward Dobeck, reflecting on his experience in AP, or, Advanced Placement classes.
By the time Ward graduates, he will have taken seven AP classes, virtually the maximum number that an SCH student can take.
AP classes aim to offer challenging, college-level work to high schoolers, with a chance to earn college credit from the culminating AP Exams. However, in AP classes, there is often a distinct lack of opportunity for students to develop skills to truly learn and improve.
“I’m taking some AP courses that I don’t like just because I want to add that extra rigor piece to my college application,” added Ward.
High-achieving students like Ward who strive to get accepted into the top colleges and universities are encouraged to show admissions offices that they excelled in the hardest possible classes. At SCH, the hardest classes are known to be AP classes. SCH offers eleventh and twelfth graders fourteen AP class options, but most students only end up taking one or two in a given year.

I’m taking some AP courses that I don’t like just because I want to add that extra rigor piece to my college application.

— Ward Dobeck '24

In a fast-paced AP environment, teachers must progress quickly through a lot of material in a limited amount of time. Dr. Richards, an AP U.S. History teacher, appreciates that his class attempts to “cover as much as possible, in both breadth and depth.” He has found, however, that the AP curriculum allows for “much less flexibility” than he’s used to. Dr. Richards added that in the AP class, “We don’t really have time for graded discussions. We don’t really have time for deep dives into primary sources…. Sometimes I think that some of those things we covered might not be as important as some other things we could spend more time on.”
In addition to lacking some important topics and “deep dives into primary sources,” the AP U.S. History class spends little time developing students’ writing. Ward, who took AP U.S. History last year, noted that to qualify for placement in the class, students’ writing “needed to be already pretty solidified and polished,” because it would not be a primary focus of the class.
Senior Hudson Barry also took AP U.S. History last year, but questions the prerequisite for course placement that Ward mentioned. “You do more writing in honors [U.S. History]. So [the requirement] didn’t really make sense,” said Hudson. Hudson’s right, deeming a student’s writing “polished” should not cause them to receive less opportunity to continue growing and refining their craft.
The chair of the SCH math department, Mr. Keister, emphasized the difference between a student being exposed to material versus learning it. “Learning means that you own it, [that] you’re in control of [the content],” said Mr. Keister. “[Students] have to have opportunities to take what’s external, and what [they] are exposed to, and make that internal, to stick in [their] brain and in [their] network of understanding.”
Junior Josh Miller recalled a time when his AP Physics teacher “was going so fast, [he] was literally just copying her work and not hearing what she said.”
Shaun Gupte, a senior with eight AP classes in total, acknowledged that the trouble is “not the fault of the teacher.” In his experience, “the teachers have done a really good job of teaching the AP content.” Shaun believes, though, that “the AP system in general detracts from the overall learning experience.”
And that’s the problem that is so unfortunate for high-achieving students who, as senior Stone Xin said about himself and others, “just love learning.” AP classes are supposed to be the most prestigious, most rigorous classes that offer the most challenging work. In reality, their structure causes students to lose opportunities for development and mastery.

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About the Contributor
Griffy Whitman
Griffy Whitman, Inaugural Editor-in-Chief
Griffy is a junior at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and he revived The Campus Lantern last year. He loves lacrosse and writing, so you can usually find him either on the field or interviewing someone for a story. Outside of school, he loves to play with his dog, Wesley.
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