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STEARNS: AP rigor does not equal college reality

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MIKAYLA STEARNS

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Now, propaganda is a pretty strong word, so let’s say I very easily get caught up in the AP “buzz” here on campus. The majority of my classes this year are APs. Next year they will take up almost 100% of my schedule. I am pushed by my older classmates and my teachers into enrolling in AP classes. I fill out an hour long survey each year so the school can make sure that I am sure I can take AP’s, and if I wasn’t, I can (and should)!

I have come to believe through my years in high school that I will only get into a reputable school if my resume sports several AP classes. I hear excessively about the divine power of the skills that AP classes bless me with, while being continually bombarded with the words “college-readiness.”

Yet this year I receive little to no feedback on writing assignments and am required to complete packet and packet of practice work a night. This goes against everything I have heard about the application of skills in a college environment.

I guess my question is: Is AP that divine? Does twice the amount of homework time really prepare me for the primarily lecture-based classes of college that require the occasional test and project? I certainly am getting the hang of memorizing information independently, if that’s the goal. I can see how that could be applicable in college. But I want to be prompted to think existentially and apply theories/ideas by collaborating with other people, and I am not receiving that whatsoever.

Currently, I am mostly taking APs to avoid some of the debt I would be putting myself into when enrolling in the college equivalent of the course by being able to take the AP exam now for only $5.
That is the vibe I am getting off of these classes. When everyone preaches “college-readiness,” do they just mean having some of your required units completed before actually enrolling in college? Or do they mean actually gleaning the skills you need to thrive in a college environment? If it’s the latter, we’ll have to agree to disagree.

I have multiple friends who have taken summer classes at Sierra College and they can’t believe the discrepancy of work given in supposedly equivalent classes. They had minimal tests, few notes and essays to submit; most of their class was the final and a few quizzes.

I really do believe that I benefit personally from taking the kinds of classes in which the teachers take a special interest in their students and care passionately about the class. Many times these are AP classes, because the teacher has gone out of their way to study the subject intensively and get a degree in whatever the subject may be. When a teacher cares about the class, it’s not just memorizing for the students anymore, but listening and learning.

Yet there still exists a problematic mindset in AP classes: that the point of class is just to get you ready to cheat the system and ace the exam at the end of the year. All of the strategies I am taught are tailored to the specific inner workings of College Board and finagling a passing grade on the exam. How is that preparing me for the academic realities of college? I would much rather learn flexibility, collaboration and resourcefulness than how to still squeeze out seven points on a DBQ when I can’t remember anything during the test. That only benefits me when I receive the credits for college units, not in the long run of my own personal education.

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