There are several high school experiences universally shared by all American teens. Among them are homecoming, prom, and Advanced Placement, or International Baccalaureate courses. Here at MC, AP courses, especially, have become essential to the school’s curriculum. Yet, what once were college-preparatory classes for students wishing to advance their knowledge in certain subjects are now platforms for students to inflate their GPAs and begin the ever-so acclaimed college application process.
In 2000, there were around 800,000 students participating in the AP program. Two years ago, in 2014, there were over two million AP students according to College Board’s archived AP data. Currently, MC offers 19 AP classes, with AP Computer Science added to the course selection four years ago and AP Psychology added just this year. The demand for AP classes only rises.
The conversation surrounding AP courses constantly fills the hallway, either implicitly or explicitly. There’s a stigma against those who don’t take any of these courses and one against those taking exclusively AP classes. It has ceased to be a discussion on which advanced placement courses one is taking and has shifted to a comparison of how many. It is widely acknowledged that the college selection process has become a sort of game. Resume packing, complete with clubs with shiny names and titles, is the norm.
An era of all-nighters and sleep-deprived students has ushered into the twenty-first century, as college admission percentages decrease and the amount of bags under students’ eyes increases. But, there comes a point where the true value of APs needs to be assessed.
Undoubtedly, there is not a one-size-fit-all approach when it comes to academic selection and rigor. Yet, the prevalent AP culture pushes for students to take more, in disregard to their actual desires to learn certain subjects.
There is something to be acknowledged about students taking new classes and pushing themselves further academically. The question still remains, however, how to balance rigor and reality, challenge and control, and how to ultimately instill in students the value in learning, not grade inflation.