Last spring, GDS announced that the school was planning on phasing out Advanced Placement (AP) classes in coordination with several other independent schools in the area. The move would eliminate all AP courses in participating schools by 2022. Many students are excited about the new development, but as course registration quickly approaches, others are worried about how the change might affect them.
“One of the goals,” Dean of Academic Life, Chris Levy said, “is to have students explore topics in new and exciting ways, through courses that are equally challenging, if not more rigorous.”
Freshman Maddie Feldman wasn’t aware of the phasing out of APs until after she had decided to attend GDS for high school. Feldman is enthusiastic about the decision because of what she has heard about course selection based purely on building an impressive transcript. Often because of the stress of having a competitive transcript, students make the decision to take an AP class rather than a class that appeals more to their interests.
“I am excited not to have to worry about [the pressure to take AP classes] and consequently prioritize passions and interests over transcript appearance,” Feldman said.
Current juniors will be the last graduating class to have all AP courses offered to them throughout their high school career. Talia Rodriguez has already been through a majority of her junior year and thinks that the move away from APs will be great for future GDS students.
Her AP US History class discussed the variation of classes once teachers won’t have to stick to an AP curriculum. New classes would no longer have to adhere to the strict guidelines of an AP curriculum and could instead dive deeper into particular topics. AP Biology gives a broad overview of the subject, but its replacements, Molecular and Cellular Biology and Genetics and Evolutionary Biology, will go more in depth on topics that might only have been briefly covered in AP Biology.
“There is already a really nice class selection, but I think it would further the possible excitement around [AP courses],” Rodriguez said.
A big goal of moving away from APs is to get rid of the pressure that makes students take a class solely based on how it looks on a college transcript. Rodriguez says if there weren’t pressure to take APs from her peers and college counselors, she wouldn’t have taken them at all.
“I’m taking a hard course load for me and I feel challenged, but I’m not [overloading on]AP classes,” Rodriguez admitted.
Sophomore Emily Scarrow was initially worried because of the plan she had already set for her junior and senior years. While all AP classes are still open to her for junior year, by her senior year, many of those APs will no longer be available.
“While I feel APs do create a learning environment that is different than the one GDS strives for, in this day and age they make you stand out to colleges,” Scarrow said.
Similarly, Feldman is concerned about how colleges will perceive her as GDS continues the process towards removing APs.
“I am worried that if I take some of those classes, colleges will wonder why I’m taking only one or two APs when, in reality, other APs I would have taken are not accessible,” she said.
These worries that echo the thoughts of many sophomore and freshmen students may be due simply to lack of understanding of the college process and the transition away from APs. Levy explained that along with a student’s application, a profile of each high school is given to colleges.
“The school is intentional about making sure that changes to our curriculum are reflected within GDS’ profile and communicated to colleges,” Levy said.
Rodriguez is proud of the classes she has taken and the challenges she has overcome. She thinks that everyone must find a way to balance interests with rigorous class loads. Her advice to for those struggling through course registration is to not make decisions based on colleges; colleges shouldn’t want you solely based on your AP classes.
“If a college isn’t going to accept you for not taking AP Chem,” she said, “you don’t want to go to that college.”
Through all the stress that comes with course registration, there is a general consensus of excitement for what the future holds. While students get through this transition period, Levy wants to reassure students that they are at no disadvantage.
“Colleges will receive information about our new course offerings and gain greater insight into the ways in which the student experience will become richer. Our kids will benefit tremendously,” he said.