Less school, the same old AP exams
The Collegeboard has decided to keep AP test dates in May, despite LOSD and many other school districts adopting an alternating four class schedule. This creates problems for students who have their AP classes in the second and fourth quarter, because they will have less time than their counterparts to learn and review the material.
I chose to take AP classes because I’m genuinely interested in the subjects, with the added bonus of preparing myself for college. But this year, it feels like AP classes are more like a ubiquitous sprint to the finish line, rather than the typical marathon. I understand the reasoning behind front loading our courses, and I respect and appreciate the teachers who spend countless hours changing their lessons to online formats. But it already feels like an uphill battle. Not only do we have to learn the information in less time, but we have to remember it through long breaks when we don’t have the class and then immediately jump back into the material.
While the Collegeboard has changed their rules to allow cancellations with no additional charge, this still places a massive burden on students and teachers. Teachers are attempting to frontload their courses with information, but they’re already dealing with increased workloads (most teachers are working over 60 hours a week) due to transferring online, so finding the time to devise a plan to comprehensively prepare for the AP exam can be a challenge.
Lisa Grimm, the LOHS French teacher, said, “If students don’t use the preparatory tools seriously and prep outside of class, they can’t just survive on coursework this year. AP classes have to be more intense this year, with less breadth than usual.”
Students face the decision to individually study, switch classes, or simply hope for the best. Most students are worried about learning the information with online classes, and about 40 percent have considered dropping out of a class because of the additional stress.
Nationwide, schools have been shifting and attempting to return to a hybrid in-person learning model. Close to half of the 50 largest school districts in America have resumed some degree of in-person classes, and 11 more are planning to in the coming weeks. Typically, districts follow a phased approach where the youngest students (those in kindergarten up through second grade) return to in-person learning first, gradually followed by the upper grades. In-person learning is essential to childhood development not only cognitively, but socially, physically and emotionally as well.
I, however, believe that the importance of in-person learning for the upper classes is overlooked. School is where many people discover their passions, make new friends and become comfortable with who they are in preparation for college and adult life. Right now, the extensive amount of time that high school students spend looking at a screen can lead to poor sleep schedules, high rates of depression and anxiety and physical health problems. Additionally, most of this time is spent in isolation, as online classes simply cannot replace the same connections that are made at in-person classes.
Grimm emphasized, “Teachers have their arms open to the students, we understand that it is a difficult time for everyone. There are a lot of ways to learn, and hopefully this situation can change some of the emphasis away from traditional book smarts.”
Everyone needs some degree of social interaction, and right now, older students are surviving online school the same as everyone else – the best they can. If LOSD required students to wear masks and follow necessary safety protocols, I believe that high school students could safely return to a hybrid form of learning that would be overall more beneficial educationally and mentally. AP classes in particular rely on a good student-teacher relationship where students can approach their teachers with questions and check their understanding of the concepts, which is extremely difficult when those classes are online.