AP: Advanced Pressure

January 22, 2008
By Michael Sale, North Miami Beach, FL

Many schools across the country are considering eliminating the Advanced Placement program, more commonly known as AP. Each of these college level courses concludes with an exam at the end of the year created by the College Board, which is taken by students all over the country who are enrolled in that AP.
AP teachers must prepare their students for the exam at the end of the year; however, critics of the AP system claim that students do not achieve a full learning experience since teachers are only “teaching to the test”. Academic Dean, Mr. Curtis said “I see no good reasons for ‘teaching to the test,’ since it is possible to teach students to learn in ways that will also enable them to succeed on tests such as AP's.”
On the other hand, a solid understanding of the material on the test is the best way to achieve the highest score. AP exams are graded on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best score. Since these classes are supposed to be college-level courses, numerous colleges will give college credit to a student who scores well on the exam. Many supporters of the AP program believe that students should receive college credit to relieve the students from taking a course in college that would be extremely similar. “I believe the students should get credit for a course which is virtually the same as the course they would take at a university only better. Better because it is a more relaxed comfortable atmosphere with a higher caliber of students. The access to the instructor is so much easier in this setting,” said Mr. Pershbacher, AP Calculus BC teacher.
Most elite colleges only accept scores of 4 and 5, with some only accepting scores of 5. Excelling on AP exams is extremely beneficial in the college admissions process, which shows colleges that the student can handle college level material.
If MCDS was to eliminate the AP program, would there be an alternative option that could challenge students to achieve at a high level? The International Baccalaureate program, also known as IB, offers students an opportunity to take six subjects and learn to become critical thinkers. “The IB program has standards of achievement that do a better job of intellectually challenging students and preparing them for college. The preceding should not be construed to mean that AP courses are not worthwhile. Taught properly, they can challenge students to become effective learners,” said Mr. Curtis.
Are students actually looking for the “college experience” in AP Courses? Or are these classes simply used as an application booster? “In the sciences, I don't think that AP courses truly reflect the college experience, although I think that we do a pretty good job in trying to mimic it. I see the AP course as an elective that should serve the academic elite and not as a means to pad one's academic resume,” said Mr. Hori, AP Physics teacher.
About two million students nationwide are enrolled in at least one AP course, but many schools are moving away from the system in an effort to enhance the learning experience, while keeping the same level of work. AP classes at MCDS have given students an opportunity to learn in a college-level atmosphere, which contributes to the college preparatory nature of the school.

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