Eye of the Tiger

AP curriculum evolves with students, teachers

As part of a two part investigative report Eye of the Tiger looks into the pros and cons of pushing AP courses. Part one examines the benefits AP courses can offer students. Part two will explore some of potential problems with the program.

During+her+AP+European+History+class+on+Friday+morning%2C+Carol+Crabtree+works+with+a+student.+She+believes+that+AP%E2%80%99s+evolving+curriculum+has+allowed+her+to+alter+her+teaching+style+in+a+positive+way.
During her AP European History class on Friday morning, Carol Crabtree works with a student. She believes that AP’s evolving curriculum has allowed her to alter her teaching style in a positive way.

During her AP European History class on Friday morning, Carol Crabtree works with a student. She believes that AP’s evolving curriculum has allowed her to alter her teaching style in a positive way.

(DANIELLE BENNETT / EYE OF THE TIGER)

(DANIELLE BENNETT / EYE OF THE TIGER)

During her AP European History class on Friday morning, Carol Crabtree works with a student. She believes that AP’s evolving curriculum has allowed her to alter her teaching style in a positive way.

CLAIRE TOWNSEND

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Last week, all Roseville High School students were asked to complete an Equal Opportunity Schools survey that is part of a plan to encourage more students to take more Advanced Placement classes. Over the past decade, the school has increased its AP course offerings, enrollment and the number of students taking AP tests.

In addition to the opportunity to earn college credit while in high school, many AP teachers and administrators on campus tout the benefits of increased rigor, recent changes to reflect modern curriculum and exposure to college level material as benefits of the AP program.

At the same time, critics of the program cite overburdening students with homework, depth sacrificed at the expense of breadth, a tendency to teach to the test and curriculum that does not align with the experience students have in college courses as reasons to question the program.

As part of a two part investigative report Eye of the Tiger looks into the pros and cons of pushing AP courses. Part one examines the benefits AP courses can offer students. In the next issue, part two will explore some of potential problems with the program.

Between modified AP tests and changes in curriculum, AP courses are in the process of shifting to match new educational perspectives that emphasize critical thinking.

AP courses goals are simple: to prepare students for college classes. AP classes function as college-level courses available to students at their high schools, with an AP test allowing students to earn college credit for their work.

RHS principal David Byrd believes that the courses live up to that goal by helping expose students to the course difficulty that they’ll face in their secondary education.

“The biggest payoff for taking AP courses is college-level rigor,” Byrd said. “College level experience… curriculum… literature… it’s getting used to the college model while you can.”

In practice, the college model is not necessarily four one-and-a-half hour classes every day for five days a week with two to four hours of homework.

Rather, the college model is often more akin to few classes each semester or quarter, leaving open days in a week to account for those two to four hours of independent study.

The biggest payoff for taking AP courses is college-level rigor. College level experience… curriculum… literature… it’s getting used to the college model while you can. ”

— David Byrd

Still, Byrd feels rather than the two curriculums being directly comparable, that students’ “habits are shaped” by being in an AP course, as AP courses provide more feedback and introduces students to the concept of independent study. It’s these habits that benefit students in college.

AP European History teacher Carol Crabtree sees the five days a week spent in classrooms as more of a time commitment than college courses, as college courses are not every day and require less time as a whole from a student.

She believes, when it comes down to it, AP courses can actually be more difficult than college-level courses.

“At the high school level, we’re not mature enough as students,” Crabtree said, in regards to self-preparation for exams. “I have to actually assign the work and it’s a lot of work in addition to being in class.”

In terms of the modernizing curriculum, Crabtree, after teaching AP Euro for six years, notes that throughout her career the AP Exam has evolved to better fit students’ needs, focusing more on analysis, reading and writing and less on memorization.

This has also allowed her to alter her teaching style; rather than covering the content in as much detail, she can focus on developing skill sets.

“We can go bigger picture,” Crabtree said, “So we get to spend more time focusing on the skills needed to do well on the test.”

However, she believes that the unpredictability of the test ensures that AP classes must focus on offering diverse content as well.

“We can teach students how to write the essays… how to answer multiple choice questions… but in terms of predicting what will be on the test, it’s tough,” Crabtree said.

(DANIELLE BENNETT / EYE OF THE TIGER)
Alternates to Adavanced Placement courses include academic enrichment classes at Sierra College.

Sierra College professor of history, David Kuchera, assigns readings from multiple supplementary books with quizzes, tests and essays and includes a class research paper as part of his curriculum – mirroring the workload found in AP classes.

However, he feels that whether his students have taken an AP class has little impact on how they do his in his courses and that both AP and non-AP students can struggle in college if they fail to focus on the right things.

“I have had students who I know have not had AP classes do very well in my classes,” Kuchera said. “However, a letter grade does not always accurately convey what an individual student gets out of a class… If there is no empathy in the subject matter, they have not really learned history; just how to jump through academic hoops.”

Byrd notes that a large part of the appeal and focus of AP is the AP Exam at the end of the year and the possible college credits that come with it.

The college credit, however, is not a guarantee. Not all colleges accept AP credit.

“We’ll teach them to get ready for the test,” Byrd said. “They have got to do the work to pass the test.”

However, Byrd feels that, when it is all said and done, taking a college course over the summer would amount to practically the same skills being learned, doing “essentially the same thing.”

Along with these changes in AP classes, other courses have started rising to the challenge of providing students with a more thought-provoking and career-centered environment.

Examples include new, career-influenced programs, such as RHS’ biomedical program, as well as alterations in other traditional courses, as seen in the NGSS biology course first hitting RHS this year.

About the Writer
CLAIRE TOWNSEND, REPORTER

I’m 17 years old, a senior, and this is my very first year in the EOT program. For work I help out as a receptionist for a local beauty spa, in my spare time I serve in key club, spend time with friends, and listen to music. Favorite artists at the moment are boy pablo and REO Speedwagon.

 

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