In Hillsborough County, students have the opportunity to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes for free and take the end of the year tests in May for free. Collegeboard on average charges $89 per test in other states across the country. This fee usually discourages students from taking AP classes, despite the benefit they may gain from it in the long run. Although that might not necessarily be a bad thing.
In my experience, I’ve sat in AP classes with students who are definitely not prepared to be in that environment. Whether they have yet to master the study skills or were not adequately prepared for the material, they have slowed down teaching for students who are ready to learn at a higher level.
In English classes especially, students will struggle with writing essays at a collegiate level or fully understanding the content within multiple choice tests. Often times students will com- plain that they can’t find the symbolism in a novel, that they simply aren’t “good writers”, or that they just don’t test well. While these may be legitimate issues, the student does not deserve to be in the AP class. They should be spending their time in an honors class learning to build up to the AP level.
AP level classes are made to challenge students already at the typical college freshman level. Many forget that the program is designed for gifted students who are ready to work past high school work.
Maybe the problem isn’t the student itself, but rather how easy it is to get into these classes. A simple sign off from a teacher and an AP contact and suddenly the student is “AP ready.” Personally, I would like to see a change in how a student can get involved with the college program. For instance, for a math class a student should be able to pass a cumulative exam that contains material from all pre-requisites prior to taking the AP class. A student interested in an AP English course should be write an essay and take a multiple choice reading test, or something of the sort. We need to make the AP process an application process. It’s not about challenging students; it’s about giving the gifted students the special attention they need to reach their full potential.
“It’s the misconception that it’s easy, but it’s still a college level class,” said AP Statistics teacher Marie Puskas, when asked if she feels as though she gets students that are behind the norm in her classes.
Sometimes it’s the student that needs to step up, sometimes they’re poorly recommended by the teachers, or sometimes it’s the helicopter mom who just can’t believe little Johnny isn’t ready to take an AP class. Whatever the case may be, the AP program isn’t fairly being represented by the student body. It’s time to stop “challenging” students, and time to start helping them meet their standards.
Samantha Bequer / Editor-in-Chief