Colleges use AP exam scores to assess student readiness

Michael Thomas, Staff Writer

In a generation that claims to be overworked and overtested by schools, some notable private schools are answering that call and moving away from Advanced Placement tests. This change comes as both a relief and a shock to the average lethargic high school student at Bear Creek and high schools around the nation.

These private high schools have been replacing the AP system with more in depth and specific courses on a myriad of subjects typically covered by AP classes.

While the SATs and ACTs are used almost universally by college admission offices to judge the intelligence of prospective students, grade point average and AP tests are used to judge academic prowess, work ethic and diligence. Opponents of removing AP tests say that without the tests, colleges will have to solely rely on GPA, which can be fickle due to school-to-school subjectivity and grade inflation.

Elite high schools like Sidwell Friends in Washington D.C. or Horace Mann in New York, with their lengthy histories of producing now-world-famous alumni — such as Bill Nye, Ronald Reagan and Hilary Clinton — hardly have to prove the legitimacy of a high GPA, while straight A’s at average public high schools, such as Bear Creek, hold no such implicit significance to colleges.

AP tests, on the other hand, are scored on a national scale, meaning students compete academically against the entirety of the nation, not just their peers. This factor also removes the chance of teachers-grade bias, so students know they earned their fives or deserved their twos; their grades weren’t affected by a teacher’s favoritism.

Students also use the AP test to jump ahead in college, some even entering as sophomores.

“I took nine AP tests in high school,” AP European History teacher Jonathon Clemons said. “[which translates] to 32 semester units, so I entered college as a sophomore.”

Some AP students have even taken their AP test specifically to help them advance faster in their major.

“I took European History, U.S. History and Psychology because I wanted to get my history credits out of the way so I can focus on math and science in college,” senior Annabella Nguyen, a veteran of 5 AP test said.

There are undeniably positives to an AP-less high school experience. Opponents of AP classes argue that they add too much stress on students. However, students at Bear Creek say the AP exams don’t add significant stress on them because most only study the month, week or even the day before the exam.

“I think the month of [exams] I was like ‘I need to start studying,’ but I didn’t start studying until around two weeks before the test,” Nguyen said. “It’s not that stressful because AP exams are just there to benefit you — you can’t lose anything.”

For elite private schools, the main argument towards the elimination of AP courses is to stop AP teachers from being restricted in what they teach, allowing them to expand their curriculum to broader subjects. However AP literature teacherLaura LaRue holds no such grievance with the AP tests they teach to.

“No, [I don’t feel restricted],” Larue said. “The way the AP English classes are set up, we develop our own syllabus. So I’m able to construct from the ground up what I teach and how I want to teach it; there are certain things I have to teach to ensure my students are successful, but it does not limit me in what I select to teach.”