The end of AP?

Why AP enrollment at Garfield is going down.

At the end of the 2016-2017 school year, a three AP cap was put into place by the Garfield administration. It’s purpose was to help students avoid extra stress and help eliminate the educational gap. A student has the option to waive the AP cap by having their counselor and parent sign a statement agreeing that the student is “aware that taking more than three AP classes involves high level analytical thought and research, includes a significant weekly workload, and progresses at a fast pace.” Although the AP cap does not stop any student from taking a class, many feel that there is less pressure to take AP classes because of it.

For most, taking AP courses and tests can ideally lower a student’s college tuition and offer a head start on the credits needed for a bachelor’s degree. However, it is often difficult to obtain college credits for an AP test. Several colleges still do not accept AP credits at all, and most don’t accept tests that scored below a three. According to a study done by Paul Weinstein, the director of Johns Hopkins University’s graduate program in public management, eighty-six percent of the top 153 universities and colleges restrict AP credits in some way.

Ian Sample has been the general calculus teacher at Garfield for the past ten years. In the past few years, the amount of students enrolled in general calculus has more than doubled. “For eight of the past ten years, the sign up for regular calculus was about fifty-five, and then last year we had about ninety kids sign up, and then this year we had one hundred and twenty kids sign up,” said Sample Because of the substantial increase in students signing up for general calculus, two more classes have been added in the past two years.

At the beginning of this school year, Sample surveyed the students in his fourth, fifth, and sixth period general calculus classes about why they chose to take general calculus. Of the sixty-four people surveyed, twenty-eight said that they chose not to take AP calculus because they felt AP was either too fast paced, too challenging, or too much work or scary.

“Over the past two years I’ve been doing the survey ‘Why did you sign up for this class’, and the number one answer tends to be around the idea of a few AP related subjects.” says Sample. “One of which is the idea that AP classes require so much homework that they don’t have enough time to actually do all of it. Another is the general distrust of the college board and a corporate driven curriculum. Another is not wanting to pay one hundred dollars for a test at the end of the class so that you’re literally paying for a part of your grade.”

Of the other thirty-six people surveyed, seventeen said they chose to take general calculus because they preferred the general calculus teacher, fifteen chose to not take AP because they felt they already had too many AP’s, three because they wanted to have a smaller workload their senior year, and one because they felt AP was segregated.

According to Sample, the difference between AP calculus and general calculus is taking the time to actually gain a deep understanding of the subject rather than working as fast as possible toward a test at the end of the year. “This (class)  isn’t about proving to anyone how smart you are or how much you know, this is about preparing you for college, it’s about making sure that you have math confidence, it’s about making sure that you have the underlying skills to go forward, and that you can use math as a springboard for anything you choose to do.”