Silver Chips Online

Just say hoNOrs

The case against offering AP classes

By Jacob Popper, Op/Ed Editor
June 11, 2014
Advanced Placement testing season at Blair has come and gone, with hundreds of students taking exams in subjects from calculus to music theory and everything in between. The reasons to challenge oneself with AP classes and tests are numerous: a more rigorous curriculum, more in depth study and most of all, the chance to get college credit by scoring a 3 or above. Their obvious benefits have caused many people over the years to become strong supporters of the AP system, and in turn those people have strived to make them a choice nationwide. However, the AP curricula and tests need to be removed, because they are taking away necessary leisure time for students and furthering racial divides.
AP class offerings have only been expanding since they began in the 1950s. Courtesy of College Greenlight
AP class offerings have only been expanding since they began in the 1950s.

Let me first make it clear that many people see APs as purely a matter of choice: if you don't like 'em, don't take 'em. However, if a school offers APs, it has an effect on everyone, including those not enrolled in the classes.

First, consider how competitive admissions to top universities in the nation is. Incoming students not only need 4.0 GPAs, but they must attain those 4.0s by taking the most rigorous classes offered. That's where APs come in. Students who feel pressure from parents, the school system and their own selves often take four or five AP classes in a given year. Since AP classes are considered college-level courses, those students are taking the same amount of college classes as the average college student. However, unlike college students, they still have to take high school classes as well. Most of them also have other commitments that college students generally don't, such as music lessons and sports practices. College admissions are constantly telling students that they want to see a challenging schedule, but they admit that colleges won't penalize applicants for not taking advanced classes that aren't offered. Removing AP classes would allow students to take more relaxed schedules and give them time to unwind, keep their bodies healthy, and flourish socially with their newfound free time.

Another disturbing effect of AP classes is the noticeable lack of racial and socioeconomic diversity. Around the nation, minority and low-income students are underperforming, often comprising a disproportionately low amount of successful AP scores. Minorities are also underrepresented in AP course enrollment. For example, in Boston Public Schools , African Americans made up 40 percent of the eleventh and twelfth grade students in 2011-2012, but made up only 29 percent of students enrolled in AP classes. By comparison, white students made up only 13 percent of the total upperclassmen population but 22 percent of AP students. At Blair, just popping one's head into AP classes will reveal a majority of white and Asian students, a subtle but still very present form of discrimination. Offering AP classes furthers the racial divide at Blair, and thus prevents our school from taking full advantage of our wonderful diversity. In other areas, where there is less diversity and acceptance, this separation could foster abundant racism, especially in areas with a lot of poverty and prejudice.

APs aren't all bad. They have the potential to save families tons of money by completing college credits in introductory courses in high school, when they're only $90, as opposed to in college when they're more expensive. However, because high AP scores are usually attained by people that already have elevated socioeconomic status, this benefit serves only a slim minority.

Supporters also argue that AP courses help kids prepare for college by getting exposure to the kind of rigorous learning they'll be faced with there. However, a 2013 study conducted by Stanford University showed that many common assumptions about AP classes such as the claim that AP programs give students "several advantages in terms of college" is based on correlation, rather than causation. Based on the fact that most successful AP students are already motivated to succeed regardless of coursework, this makes sense.

AP programs will likely continue to expand around the nation. There may be little that we can do to stop it, but we can improve the current AP system in place. By making sure to preserve students' free time and schools' diversity, we can be sure to challenge students and give them college credit in a healthy, productive and accepting learning environment.

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/12496