Advanced Placement or Absurd Pressure

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Advanced Placement or Absurd Pressure

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Advanced Placement (AP) classes were initially created with positive intentions, but many high school students would agree that the absurd pressure they create may outweigh the benefits. According to the College Board website, the original intent of the AP curriculum was to help students get a feel for what college classes were like, and prepare them academically for their future. Created in the mid 1900s and funded by Ford Foundation, the plan for APs allowed high schools and colleges to work together in order to prepare students for rigorous college courses, and prevent repetition in their learning. AP classes would allow more advanced students to take classes that would be able to challenge them particularly in the subjects that they were most interested in. Today, with over 2 million students taking AP exams, it is important to note some flaws that have arisen within this system.

Time and Curriculum Changes

As AP students, we have experienced the feeling of having to sprint through the material of the course just so that we can be prepared for the AP exam in May. Most Northeastern schools begin around early September, while in the South, schools begin up to a month before, yet everyone nationwide takes the AP exams in early May. As a result, in this part of the country we spend a great deal of the course just trying to catch up to the expected schedule of curriculum. Not only does our start date put us behind on timing, but according to AP Physics teacher, David Delgiudice, a change in the daily schedule of AP science classes has lead to a drastic decrease in the amount of class time each week. He explained that the majority of AP science courses previously had a double period, but now most have only a single period leading to a decrease of almost 100 hours of class time. With less time comes increased pressure on both students and teachers. Students must cram the material just to be able to stay on track with the curriculum. They often end up falling behind or not being able to absorb the subject matter. Teachers are forced to rush through material and maintain a strict time schedule, making it more difficult to get across to students and ensure mastery of the subject. Some teachers have resorted to after school sessions to teach more material just to stay on track, however this is difficult for both students and teachers who have other after-school obligations.

Delguidice also discussed that, coupled with a lack of time was a recent increase in the difficulty level of the AP Physics exam; a drastic decrease in the average score on the exam has ensued as a result. Now the exam is based more on explanation rather than problem solving and calculation. This makes it more difficult for teachers to teach the subject matter and ensure students’ success on the exam. Not all the curriculum changes are negative, however. AP US History teacher, Douglas Maclehose, said that around 5 years ago College Board decided to alter the curriculum of the course in order to make it more flexible for teachers to get through all of the content. This change has allowed Maclehose to focus more on bigger concepts and as a result, feels that the difficulty level of the test has decreased. It seems as though the AP curriculum changes can be helpful in certain subjects, but detrimental in others.

Emotional effects

Students juggle seven classes, after school sports, clubs, and sometimes even jobs or volunteer work, causing them to feel overwhelmed. Taking AP classes fuels this massive load of stress. In fact, students sometimes give up sports or other activities just to be able to keep up with the work in these classes. Teachers often argue that students put themselves into this position of stress, however the student does not always have full control over this decision. They face a great deal of external pressures from peers, parents, administrators, and college admissions pressuring them to take to this rigorous course load. Even if the student is not fully on board with taking an AP class, they often feel like it is a necessary action. Maclehose also mentioned how he has seen in students and his own son an increase in the pressure students must manage especially when faced with the workload that comes with AP classes.

The constant pressure of having to prepare for a single exam at the end of the course puts too much weight on the future. We work the whole year to be prepared for this single test that determines whether we receive college credit or not. Colleges do not, however, look at the grade you receive in the class which is a better representation of the knowledge you have obtained throughout the course. Anything can happen on a single day that might inhibit one’s ability to perform to the test.

Number of subjects offered and interests

According to  the College Board Website, one of the benefits of taking AP courses is that they help students “dig deeper into subjects that interest them, and learn to tap their creativity and their problem-solving skills to address course challenges.” There are 38 AP courses and 27 of those are offered at Stamford High. With so many options, students should not feel pressured to take classes in subjects that do not interest them. Yet, all these options seem to have become funneled into a few select courses that students feel they are “required” to take. According to the 2017 Stamford Public Schools Advanced Placement Report, core subjects such as AP Language and Composition and AP World History had over 50 students while AP art courses and concentrated subjects like Physics C (mechanics-based) had no more than 5 students taking them. If the goal of College Board is to truly allow students to further explore their future interests, that doesn’t seem to be happening in reality.


AP classes are not all bad, but there are certain aspects of them that the school system should address. If these flaws can be sorted out, AP courses may become much more influential in a student’s education.

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