What if Leesville had no AP Classes?

Students hard at work in one of thousands of AP classes across the country. Advanced classes help students gain more knowledge in a college-like environment, but is the AP program really all it’s made out to be?

Students hard at work in one of thousands of AP classes across the country. Advanced classes help students gain more knowledge in a college-like environment, but is the AP program really all it’s made out to be?

What if Leesville didn’t offer any AP classes?

Think of how many late-night hours would be saved for sleeping instead of working. Think of how much stress and anxiety would be avoided. Think of how much more encouraging test scores would look on your report card.

There are few students who wouldn’t appreciate those extra opportunities to slow down and actually enjoy high school. However, there’s also the college application worry — the driving force behind AP class schedule-loading in the first place. If Leesville dropped AP classes, would our respective chances to get into Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, Wake Forest and other elite colleges be reduced?

That’s the assumed con to any such curriculum change. If our GPAs and college credits were all lower, it seems obvious that Leesville’s top students would have less opportunity to get into the best universities.

However, that might not be the case. According to DIYCollegeRankings.com, “If your high school offers AP classes then taking AP classes demonstrates taking the most rigorous academic program available. Colleges know what classes are available based on the school profile that is sent with  the counselors letter or transcript.”

If that concern is indeed unwarranted, comments made by other critics of AP class system may also be worth considering.

John Tierney, columnist for The Atlantic, argues that “the traditional monetary argument for AP courses — that they can enable an ambitious and hardworking student to avoid a semester or even a year of college tuition through the early accumulation of credits — often no longer holds.”

“Increasingly, students don’t receive college credit for high scores on AP courses; they simply are allowed to opt out of the introductory sequence in a major,” he says. “And more and more students say that’s a bad idea…that they’re better off taking their department’s courses.”

Some high schools around the country are already listening — and taking action. The Fieldston School, a private high school in New York City, dropped their AP classes over a decade ago. The school complained that “the classes, often survey courses covering a lot of broad ground in a short period of time, restrict teacher creativity and the ability to probe enticing themes, while increasing stress on students.” The following school year, 2001-2002, the senior class had the highest college acceptance rate of any class in Fieldston history.

Concord Academy, a private high school in the Boston area, dropped their AP class offerings in 2010. John Drew, former Concord science teacher, explained to the Boston Globe that “AP biology was the classic mile-wide, inch-deep curriculum, where students had to memorize on the run.” He felt that the intensely demanding college board-set curriculum didn’t allow the opportunity for comprehensive learning into each particular subject. “I literally had to tell students to put their hands down and not ask questions because we had to stay on schedule,” Drew said.

Moreover, if Leesville dropped its AP program, it may open the door for more flexible, interest-based class choices, especially for upperclassmen. Instead of choosing from the school’s 17 AP classes to fill up to eight or nine class slots during junior and senior year, Leesville’s cornucopia of in-depth honors-level electives would become viable for even the most GPA-obsessed students.

A student interested in a journalism career could take Speech, Creative Writing or Newspaper if Economics and Statistics, for example, no longer offered the AP incentive. In the same line of thought, a student hoping to become a history major could attend Holocaust & Genocide, World Religions or Recent International Relations if Spanish Language and Music Theory, for instance, didn’t have the six-points-for-an-A benefit.

So what if Leesville didn’t offer AP classes? Pros and cons all considered, the concept may perhaps require more than a second thought.

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