AP leaves students behind


Senior Connor Earegood

Advanced Placement courses boast excellent opportunities for college-level educational experiences and students across the country scramble every year to take them.

AP classes are a misnomer for the academic ability of students.

Teachers structure AP classes to a broad curriculum prescribed by College Board. The educational giant weighs each unit of information on its exams and educators have no choice but to hold to these standards.

It’s irrational to believe that a corporate entity based in New York City knows the needs of every gifted student across the nation.

The curriculum offers a perfunctory grasp of concepts as complex as historical trends and it focuses more on recalling trends and events than understanding history as a causal process.

The AP World History exam, for example, will ask students to interpret a document and answer a handful of questions about it.

A high score on the exam can be scored just by knowing key events and using process of elimination on multiple choice questions.

This offers no analysis of a student’s overall understanding of history and many students are left to the whims of luck as to what topics the exam will cover.

Some students, like myself, slave over homework and take hundreds of pages of notes in order to score well on the exam. Often times, students forget this information after the exam.

AP exams seem to target memorization and good writing rather than critical thinking and original thought.

If you make an assertion that does not align with the curriculum — though it may be based in good reasoning — you might not receive credit on the exam.

AP mathematics courses also pose interesting challenges. On questions that ask for justification, students must analyze an equation and back up a response using the correct information.

But if students make one mistake in their analysis of a problem on the AP Calculus exams — even as small as using the word “it” in their rationale — they can potentially lose points on the question.

Students should not be graded on how well they use a template-driven, cookie cutter response. Diversity of thought is murdered in such an environment.

Students must be taught to think, not to follow another person’s analysis.

If Nicolaus Copernicus had not challenged geocentricity in the 1500s, who knows how far behind our society would be compared to the present.

Students in AP classrooms often hear variants of the phrase “the College Board requires” when covering a topic.

Since when does a corporation know more about what unique students should learn than the teachers who lead and mentor the students themselves?

No one student is identical, a fundamental issue in the College Board’s educational prescriptions.

Teaching students to follow rather than lead makes AP courses less than ideal.

And for students who take longer to learn a subject, AP courses create an extra challenge.

If a student — or even a class — is confused by a topic and needs more time, the AP timeline allows little tolerance for straying from the schedule. Classes often have to move on from a subject and students feel the burdens of this.

Assigning a score to a student’s ability to learn does not accurately reflect their aptitude.

Many skilled students who work diligently and show determination in the classroom receive low scores on their exams. Academic skill cannot be quantified in a number, but rather it must be seen and experienced.

Pressure to compete on the AP exams can lead many students to only memorize information rather than synthesize it.

In Dr. Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives, six specific levels of student understanding are outlined that educators can use to design lessons to achieve different levels.

The steps range in complexity from remembering facts and concepts to creating original works with newly learned information.

An educator’s goal is to reach the level of creation — the highest level of understanding.

AP classes rarely allow students to truly reach this level of understanding. Often times a student must simply memorize something and move on to the next topic.

In basic educational theory, AP classes fail students.