VOICES: Students and staff must take responsibility for low AP scores

Bear Creek is a successful school both academically and athletically, so why are some of our Advanced Placement exam pass rates so low?

Not to discredit the many successful AP teachers at the Creek, but it is disappointing that there are multiple teachers with pass rates that are consistently 25 percent or lower. AP classes are high-stakes; as the price of college units soars and the skill floor for entering a four-year school rises ever higher, students taking a year-long class reasonably expect to be taught at the college level, so that they can develop the skills they need for college and save potentially thousands of dollars on introductory college courses.

The administration should take charge and locate the root of the massive failures in the classroom. The policy that students who take the AP exam do not have to take a final should be done away with; it allows students to buy their way out of taking a final that they may fail. Tests and essays, especially in the second semester, should have difficulty comparable to the exam itself. Teachers who routinely have low pass rates should be given special training, or, if necessary, replaced by a more effective colleague. Teachers should avoid taking on too many “extracurriculars,” like club advising and coaching, lest they detract from their academic obligations.

That isn’t to say that students themselves aren’t at fault here: “taking the L” on one’s parents’ dime (or, even worse, with money from a fee waiver that could’ve gone to a hardworking student who would have passed) benefits nobody. It’s a shame that many students choose to take certain AP classes for the GPA boost, rather than to pass the exam and earn advantageous college credit — which holds substantially more long-term worth than breaking the 4.0 scale and is essentially the entire point of taking the course in the first place. Students overloading AP classes that they don’t intend to seek credit from, or at least develop critical-thinking skills in, strains teachers’ resources: an AP European History teacher cannot effectively grade 100 essays any more than an AP Biology teacher can afford lab supplies for 100 students.

None of this should discourage students from attempting AP classes and exams, but one should seriously consider his motives first.