Chamblee Gets a 5 for Cultivating a Destructive AP Culture

The CollegeBoard logo for the AP Program.

Advanced Placement, also known as AP, classes are a scam. As a student who is currently enrolled in four AP classes and took three last year, I have 44,000 minutes of evidence to back this up. That number might be incorrect though, because I’m not in AP Calculus, and according to some students at Chamblee, that equates to not being able to add numbers.

AP classes can earn students college credit for specific subject areas, such as world history or chemistry. After a year of learning the challenging content, students take an exam that they can get up to a 5 on. Most colleges accept 5s and 4s to excuse introductory classes students would otherwise have to take. In theory, the system would be perfect for students who had a natural interest for, say, math. But unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that it is the norm to take as many of the AP classes as possible, often with no concern for mental health.

The AP culture at Chamblee needs to be changed. Last week, I took a survey asking all about my perspective on AP classes. Why I enrolled in them in the first place, how the teachers and school has helped me manage the workload, and questions of that type. After taking the survey, I could not get my anger towards AP classes out of my head. I know this isn’t what College Board, the organization who runs AP classes, intended- at all- when they first initiated the AP classes in 1955.

In fact, their original intent was to educate American students better than competing students in the Soviet Union. I’m not saying we’re still living in a Cold War- era education system, but the principle itself remains.That is, students who take APs are smarter than “normal” students. Students who take AP classes are often seen as more willing to take on a challenge or motivated than those in regular classes. This has fueled a cycle of pushing one’s self too far, just to keep up with fellow students who a natural knack for certain subjects. It’s absolutely disgusting to hear students talk down non-AP classes and hold themselves high in mighty for essentially signing up for year of complaining and suffering.

Students, teachers, parents, colleges, and College Board themselves are all at fault here. We’ve all built up expectations for students that frankly, are absurd. I shouldn’t feel forced to take AP Physics I when I couldn’t care less about kinematics equations. I shouldn’t have to spend hours late in the night reading a textbook and “absorbing” information that I will probably forget minuteS after I take a test. I shouldn’t feel like I am quite literally structuring my life just to get a five instead of a two on an AP test.

According to the College Board website, “AP gives you the academic skills you need in college and can also give you more time to concentrate on the subjects that interest you.” Well College Board, let me tell you something that might interest you. 90% of the students who take AP classes have little to no interest in the content area. That figure might not be completely accurate (I haven’t take AP Statistics, so please forgive my skewed- and probably biased- data).

Here’s another little gem I found on the College Board website- “Deciding to take an AP course lets colleges and universities know that you have what it takes to succeed in an undergraduate environment.” What exactly about reading Princeton Review books the night before the AP exam because you slacked off the rest of the year correlates to success in college? What about memorizing the DBQ (document based question) rubric so you can include the minimum amount of content in your essay and still get a five means you’ll be prepared for rigorous college classes?

Sorry College Board. I know it’s not just your fault. It’s mainly the high schooler -college relationship that feeds into this destructive culture. Colleges have expectations now. No matter what their admission office webpage may say, I know exactly what they would think if they saw I had not taken any AP classes during my high school experience.

I guess if I’m really wanting to place the blame on someone, I could blame students who initially began loading up on classes in the first place. They probably didn’t realize how much of a precedent they would establish.

Over the past decade, according to the College Board (I don’t know if we can trust these fools at this point), the number of students who graduate from high school having taken rigorous AP courses has nearly doubled.

This has to do with probable motives for the school administration. I’m not pointing fingers directly at Chamblee, but instead at the system that promises more prestige and recognition for schools for having higher AP enrollment levels and test scores. There are countless studies on high schools across the nation that reveal how many teachers disagree with the large push towards AP classes. And (I hope I’m not overstepping my boundaries here) I believe if we were to survey teachers here at Chamblee, we would find very similar opinions.

There’s a huge difference between learning and getting a 5 on an AP exam. As someone who has gotten a 5 on an AP exam before, I can 100% back this up. Do I actually remember anything I learned in AP Human Geography last year? No. Yet somehow I got passed the exam.  

And at last, we reach the crowning problem I have with AP classes- what it does to teenager’s mental health. I am sick and tired of hearing my friends complain the entire day about their classes. They have every right to. Going to bed at 2 a.m. everyday starts to take a toll on staying positive. It’s just a rite of passage to stay up late to “study.”  At least, that’s what we tell each other. This has disastrous effects on students- the worst of which, unfortunately, we’ve seen.

I don’t think any of us have a clear-cut solution to the problem. At least, I hope we can all recognize there’s a problem. How are we supposed to change the norm of college applications, student’s opinions, parent’s standards, and the school culture without completely reforming the values of today’s education system? I think the first step is up to students. To be brave enough to recognize when the school norm (i.e. the desire to take too many AP classes) is not something that is productive or healthy.

You don’t have to listen to what I have to say. What do I know, right? I’m just a teenager who will be so grateful she pushed herself to load up on APs now and got to excuse a few intro classes in college. It doesn’t matter how much stress and sleep deficiency I’m currently experiencing. Plus, I haven’t taken AP Psychology, so what do I know about the effects of stress on teenager’s brains?

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