Administration anchors new class drop policies

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Manal Salim

ss-ap-resized-in-picas
Art by Maddy Meuller
In recent years, taxpayers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to nudge more students into Advanced Placement classes, according to the educational news site, politico.com, by promoting classes and subsidizing exam fees for low-income students. However, a close looks at test scores suggests the government has wasted much of its investment.
According to the site, in the last five years, the federal government has spent $275 million to push students to AP classes, and subsequently, enrollment has soared. But data analyzed by politico.com shows that the number of kids who fail the AP exams is growing rapidly.
Though the enrollment and data don’t seem to correlate, the results make perfect sense. With a focused attention on trying to get more students to take AP classes, those who do not want to participate end up getting forced to take a class they know they don’t have the time or effort to devote to. Rather than acknowledging this fact, schools, including RBHS, continue to drive unwilling students to take AP courses.
This year, at RBHS, if a student wanted to drop an AP class from his or her schedule, he or she would have to receive permission from the principal, Dr. Jennifer Mast, and provide her with a better reason than “the class is just too hard.” This newly enforced policy makes it difficult for students at RBHS to transfer out of AP classes if they realize the class is too difficult for their capacity or time availability. Though the idea of encouraging students to take AP classes has good intentions to push students to their maximum abilities and prepare them for post-secondary education, data results show the efforts are not practical.
AP classes, available in 34 subjects, are classes where the curriculum is at a college level, and tests are graded on a scale of 1 to 5. The College Board considers 3 to be a passing grade, though many universities that grant college credit for AP require a score of 4 or 5. And, according to College Board data, the share of exams that earned the lowest possible score jumped from 14 percent to 22 percent nationally.
And recent achievement data for CPS doesn’t prove to be much better. According to the data provided on the CPS website, the average number of students who took AP exams last school year will not receive college credit for the majority of tests they took. For example, of the 177 CPS students who took the AP World History exam last year, the average score was a mere 3.05, which would not grant the average student college credit.
Similarly, of the 178 students who took the AP U.S. History exam, the average score turned out to be just 3.27, which again, would not grant the average student college credit hours.
Though the RBHS administration and other advocates argue that students benefit from being exposed to the high expectations of an AP class even if they don’t pass the test, there is no proof that’s true. In fact, taking an AP class does not lead to better grades in college, higher college graduation rates or any other tangible benefit, unless the student does well enough to pass the AP test and receive college credit, according to Trevor Packer, a senior vice president at the College Board. Without having a score high enough to receive college credit, students are not receiving adequate benefits from their AP classes.
Therefore, if schools and school districts are looking to improve the education of their students and wish to challenge them, the best way to achieve this goal is not by making it difficult for students to transfer out of an AP class. Doing so does not necessarily ensure that students will then have a change of heart and doesn’t guarantee that they will suddenly feel more motivated to get through the course.
Many students wish to drop out of AP classes for a variety of reasons, and restricting their ability to do so infringes upon the time they have to devote to the classes they actually want to be in.
Instead, RBHS should focus on encouraging, through various presentations and teacher recommendations, students to consider enrolling in an AP course. This way, students will make their own personal decision as to whether they are willing to be a part of such a rigorous course and if they have the time. In this manner, students will have the freedom to drop and add classes as they please, and if they so choose to be a part of an AP class, students will be more eager to put in the work the course demands in order to be fully prepared for both the class itself and the AP exam. This way, students will have the liberty to make their own decisions, as they themselves know best what they have the time and capability to do and will challenge themselves accordingly.
 By Manal Salim