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AP classes should last a full year

AP classes should last a full year
Students work during AP Environmental Science. Many students struggle to learn all of the information required in an AP class in only one semester. (Photo courtesy of Maggie Pollard)

By the time seniors graduate high school, many, if not most of them, have taken an Advanced Placement (AP) class. How the student views the class probably depends on what AP class they chose to take and what grade they received. Over the years, AP classes have garnered a reputation for being extremely difficult and time consuming. However, there may be a way to change that.

Leesville Road High School is on a block schedule for several years There are many benefits to having a block schedule, but when it comes to AP classes, the negatives begin to show.

For one thing, AP classes require students to learn and master a more rigorous course load in a short amount of time. This requirement places a great amount of stress on students and, in some cases, makes it too difficult for students to absorb the information.

“I think it’s only the top students that can really handle the pace of a true AP class in block schedule,” said Dr. Chip Stone, an AP Environmental Science teacher at Leesville.

Another problem is that AP exams are always in May. For students who take an AP class in the fall, they have been out of the class for almost 4 months before they must take the exam.

“I took [AP] Statistics this fall, and I forgot everything, and so I’m kind of in a tough spot for the AP exam…but I’m in AP Biology right now, which is a year- long class and I feel like that has been really helpful in knowing the information and it’s definitely helped me with the AP exam. It’s like you’re always reminded of it [so] you don’t forget it,” said Tanner Felbinger, a senior at Leesville.

Forgetting the information is not the only dilemma when it comes to AP exams. Students who have AP classes in the spring must take the AP exam either without having finished the course material, or by having to learn the material in an even shorter amount of time. One potential solution to this aspect of the problem would be simply taking the AP exams later in the month.

“Even two weeks would make a huge difference…to be able to have two extra weeks, ten extra days, of class would make a huge difference in just the pacing and the ability to do some of these things…that we just can’t do in the spring,” said Stone.

Ultimately, allowing these classes to be year-long would solve most of these problems. Students would have a much longer time to absorb their information, and they would finish learning the content closer to the AP exam in May.

“I think [AP classes] should be a year-long because…you would just have a lot more time to do things… if you had a year, you could actually study what you were talking about and then practice writing more and be better prepared for the exam,” said Danielle Givens, a junior at Leesville.

If these classes last two semesters, students would also be able to earn two AP credits for the class, but not every class has to change. Classes such as AP United States History could shift to a year-long schedule, while less rigorous courses could keep the same schedule.

However, people enrolled in year-long AP classes would not be able to take as many classes overall.

“[Year-long classes] kind of [take] up an extra spot in your schedule because…you only have four classes a semester and you might not be able to take as many classes as you want to or need to to graduate,” said Felbinger.

While AP classes that only last a semester have many drawbacks, many people believe they prepare students better for college.

“It does get you kind of used to the pace of a college course because the majority of them are a semester long, not a year-long. So at least from that standpoint you’re getting a more accurate portrayal,” said Stone.

The current schedule and AP class system has been in place and running relatively smoothly for more than a decade. However, the problems cannot be ignored. Only having four months to master all of the material required for an AP class is extremely difficult. The clear solution is to stretch these classes to a full year. This would allow students to truly absorb the material, earn more AP credit and give students who might not be able to handle AP classes at the current pace a chance to try them.

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