City High students and teachers weigh the pros and cons of taking AP classes and exams.
April 23, 2015
In less than one month, 365 City High students will take at least one of 20 AP tests offered at City High. And after eight and a half months of classwork, one day will determine the numerical value of their studies.
Melanie Gibbens, AP US History teacher, believes that if there weren’t an exam at the end of the year, she could do things differently in her class, and wouldn’t feel as much pressure to teach to the test.
“I think to a certain degree, whenever you have a year-end comprehensive exam, you have to know what’s on the test, and you have to understand how the test is put together- written responses, interpreting primary sources, multiple choice,” she said. “You’d have to practice that in order to do well on the test, just like you would if you were going to take the ACT or the SAT.”
Gibbens believes that it puts students at a disadvantage if she doesn’t get them prepared. She explains that the AP college board sends out practice exam questions, which she feels she is expected to ask her students.
“If [students] are going to spend eight and a half months, spend money, and take this test in hopes of getting some college credit recognition, I feel I’m really compelled to get them ready. So yes I feel like I have to teach to the test.”
Kevin Koepnick, City High AP Biology teacher, has seen disparities in the degree of ease in receiving college credit, citing that even getting a five on an AP exam doesn’t guarantee credit to a student.
“I don’t think people should expect to save money because they took high school AP classes. That’s just a piece of fiction. That’s advertising,” he explained. “High schools can’t offer college credit. Only colleges can offer college credit.”
Koepnick recognized the fact that sometimes scores might help juniors with college admittance, but he added that seniors do not benefit because they have already been accepted into their college of choice. “There aren’t enough people of that level of maturity to really put forth the effort to gain what you could from an advanced placement class,” he said “I have concerns with younger students.”
Gibbens thinks AP US has been a success for her freshmen and sophomores.
“I think a lot of students are interested in challenging themselves. Our administration is interested in offering as many and supports offering as many AP classes as possible, so we’ve included new ones,” she said. “I think the more opportunities that kids have to just experience something that they’re ready for the more well-rounded they are. At least it’s there-it’s available.”
Max Gruber ‘16 is currently in four AP classes.
“I think that if you want to push yourself there’s no reason not to take AP classes in high school,” he said. “Then in college you can either choose to study that class more, or broaden your horizons.”
Gibbens also believes the benefits outweigh the negatives in AP classes.
“Some kids leave City High with AP credit in all four core areas,” she said. “As you get into college, it saves you time. It gives you a chance to take care of some of the preliminary groundwork if you were going to be a freshman in college.”
However freshman Liza Heimer-Lang has no regrets about not taking AP US History and is taking AP World as a sophomore.
“I signed up for AP World but I don’t know if I want to take it. It’s so much. I don’t want a ton of homework,” she said. “I’m already in other honors classes, and I’m not really into history.”
Koepnick doesn’t recommend students take an AP class just for the sake of taking it.
“If a student is really interested in chemistry, take it. If you’re really interested in biology take it,” he said. “If you’re taking it to try and impress somebody, that’s not a very good reason to take an AP class.”
Although Gruber doesn’t regret taking AP classes, he can understand the added stress, work, and pressure.
“I think sometimes people aren’t very good at managing their time, and they get overwhelmed. Some people get really anxious about their grades, or if they did poorly on an assignment,” Gruber said. “I think you need to sort of gauge your own study habits and not pile on too many things too quickly without knowing your limits.”
AP students must be prepared for fast-paced learning and higher expectations.
“I think in AP classes students have to be a little bit more willing to be up for a challenge” Gibbens said. “Whether it’s reading or writing or the amount of time put into it.”
Students in AP Biology have much more freedom in class.
“I treat them like a college laboratory, which is a very open situation,” Koepnick said. “Students are much more responsible for their own learning then the teacher is.”
That said, Koepnick believes you don’t need to take AP classes to get an excellent education at City High, but that it is an “excellent opportunity.”
“If you choose to take some AP classes at City High, you have a chance to put yourself with some really amazing teachers, and with some other really amazing students,” he said. “There’s a cost: a tremendous amount of required effort, but most people who are doing it would say it’s worthwhile.”