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APs

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									Taras Dreszer

Journalism

Final Draft, Issue 5

5 February 2010

                          Time for a Change? PCS’s AP Requirements

       The proctor announces, “fifteen minutes.” All your muscles tighten as you stare at your

AP test answer sheet. In the next fifteen minutes, you could save yourself a yearlong class in

college—or waste a yearlong class you just took.

       Advanced Placement (AP) classes are one of the most defining characteristics of PCS,

but they’re also one of the most controversial. Proponents argue that AP classes are an integral

part of the college prep experience, while others argue that the AP requirements are restrictive

and limiting. Our new principal, Archie Douglass, is evaluating the situation and may change the

AP requirements.

       Currently, PCS requires five AP classes to graduate. The official policy is ambiguous as

far as which APs those can be (neither the website or the student handbook make any mention of

required AP classes), but due to the classes offered, students are effectively required to take AP

World History, AP US History, AP Biology, AP English Language, and AP English Literature.

       These specific requirements aren’t technically mandatory for graduation; however, a

system has been set up to make these classes unavoidable. For instance, four English classes are

required to graduate. However, since Rhetoric and Interdisciplinary Writing count as electives

instead of English classes, students need to take both AP English classes.

       In the Science and History departments, classes that could be taken instead of APs have

that AP class as a prerequisite. For instance, Government can’t be used to fulfill one of the three
years of required history because AP US history is a prerequisite. The same situation applies to

AP Biology and AP Environmental Science.

       There is growing opposition to these specific AP graduation requirements and even to

APs in general. Some argue that requiring AP classes at all is a mistake. After all, hardly any

high-schools require APs, and many only allow the best and brightest students at the school to

take APs.

       AP classes entail significantly more work than a regular class, which limits number of

challenging classes a student can take, as well as their extra-curricular involvement.

Additionally, AP classes often strictly follow the AP curriculum, meaning there’s no time to

explore any particular topic in depth. Meanwhile, for students who aren’t good test takers, what

value is a class that is geared toward a single test?

       Additionally, there is frustration with certain policies that block potential alternatives to

AP classes. For instance, Cabrillo or UCSC classes can not be used to substitute classes PCS

offers. Says senior Andreas Bischoff- Fredrick, “Is there a problem with someone who needs

things at a different speed taking the class off-campus? I don't think so." Adds Wyatt Tucker,

“Don’t force someone who hates English to take two English APs when they would rather take a

math or science AP!”

       On the other hand, the AP requirements separate PCS from other public high schools.

Although APs are required for PCS students, the charter is based on the notion that students can

choose to go to a regular public school if they don’t like AP classes. PCS was created for highly

motivated students who were willing to take the most challenging classes available and work

extra hard in school, so trying to accommodate every student’s preferences is not part of the

charter.
       Some would argue that PCS could offer challenging classes that aren’t APs, but this

would remove accountability and allow for the school’s academic rigor to drop. In fact, some

think this is already happing. Hal Hansen, who has taught at the school for seven years, notes, “I

think academic standards have declined every year I've been here. Getting rid of required AP

classes is part of a larger trend of people asking for less work and lower standards … If we get

rid of AP classes, I think our academic quality will fall apart and we'll be like every other school

in town.”

       Additionally, AP classes bring PCS and its students more benefits than simply

accountability. First of all, good AP scores translate into college credit at many schools, which

can save students money or even allow them to graduate early. Secondly, requiring AP classes is

a big factor in our school’s national rankings. This causes colleges to look more favorably on

applicants from PCS. However, the high rankings do attract more publicity and ultimately better

teachers.

       The school could however, change the AP requirements while still requiring a certain

number of APs for graduation. Some complain that the requirements are biased towards the

humanities, requiring four humanities APs and just one Math or Science AP. Many people

suggest that the requirements be loosened to any five APs, or a certain number in humanities and

math/science instead of requiring other classes.

       Sarah Whittier, who teaches AP English Literature, is a strong proponent for adding more

flexibility to the graduation requirements. She asserts, “I reject the premise that non-AP classes

are by definition less rigorous. On a further point, I would argue that cramming for AP content

might not be the most effective way to challenge and excite the mind or instill a love of

learning.”
       However, opponents of this idea say that this would allow students to take easier APs,

and would reduce the number of AP students. Cost is also an issue. Offering more classes would

raise costs in the school’s already strained budget, and many think that it is currently impractical

to do so.

       Whether or not you agree with the current AP requirements, it is clear that general

attitude and mindset of the PCS community is changing. With a new principal, the school policy

is open to change as well. So if you have an opinion on AP requirements, now’s the time to

speak out!

								
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