When GDS announced that it would begin phasing out Advanced Placement (AP) courses, students all over the DMV breathed sighs of relief. Long seen as symbols of College Board overreaching, time-crunched syllabuses, and insults to teachers’ creativity, AP classes culminate with hours-long standardized exams that make many students want to rip their hair out and even doubt their own intelligence. While at face value, eliminating AP courses from the GDS curriculum seems advantageous, it might create deeper problems than it solves.
Even when AP classes are cut out of the course catalog, AP testing will remain on the table. “I think it’s a given that students will keep taking AP tests after the school phases out APs,” said senior Finn Camper. If students and parents continue to believe that taking AP tests will help the student gain even the slightest advantage in the college admissions process, students are likely to keep registering for AP tests. For students applying to college outside of the United States, submitting AP test scores are more often a requirement than a suggestion. Another incentive to take AP tests kicks in once students reach college because many universities accept AP tests as college credits. Depending on the university, students with high enough scores may even be able to place out of introductory level courses in college.
So, if GDS students are going to take AP tests no matter what, what happens when the school doesn’t prepare them? Many students already purchase test-prep books, register for outside classes and hire private tutors to prepare for AP tests, but these resources come at a high price. When students are no longer taught the bulk of the AP curriculum in class, they will have to spend more time and money outside of school to prepare for their AP exams.
Senior Eliza Kravitz explained that this phenomenon “would create a huge equity issue—it would add another layer to the socioeconomic unfairness of the college process.”
Camper added, “If by eliminating AP testing and curricula, we introduce a meaningful disadvantage for the kids who can’t rely on outside testing help, then that should be a dealbreaker.”
The only way to make headway on this issue is to weaken the lure of AP exams in the long run. “If GDS goes through with its plans to phase out AP classes,” said Kravitz, “it needs to convince both colleges and parents that students’ mastery of a high-level GDS curriculum is comparable to our AP classes now.”
Yet today, curtailing the AP exam culture seems more like a far-off dream than a tangible reality; GDS students who can afford to shell out the time and money for test prep have no disincentive to opt out of AP exams. Thus, until GDS can equitably support all of its students in their AP testing endeavors, this curricular change is unfair. We cannot sacrifice equity at the expense of educational idealism.
By Shira Minsk