Nosy relatives and friends constantly ask Loomis Chaffee upperclassmen the same prying question at home: “How many AP classes are you taking this year?”
Even though Loomis has switched from Advanced Placement (AP) to College Level (CL) courses, some teachers have not fully adopted this idea and continue to resist the advice of LC department heads, academic deans, and college guidance counselors by pressuring students to take the outdated standardized test.
Advanced Placement courses that go above high school preparatory standards and prepare students for the standardized AP Exam, which is designed and administered by the College Board. It is an unnecessary system that forces teachers to skim through topics to “teach to the test” because of the College Board’s tight timeline regarding course progression within each AP class. In addition, taking one test costs $96—making it extremely burdensome for low-income families to take multiple exams.
Despite not having any AP classes on campus, LC students still remain under enormous and unnecessary pressure to take AP exams for CL classes. Parents and even Loomis teachers expect them to perform well on an exam that is already losing relevance with college admissions. According to the Director of College Guidance Mr. David Rion, the AP exam results have “minimal importance” for students.
Moreover, when students arrive at college, the schools that Loomis students attend “give limited AP credit,” Mr. Rion said.
Conversely, switching from AP to CL allows teachers to design a more appropriate curriculum, explore topics in greater depth, and best prepare LC students for collegiate study. For example, the unique suite of CL Biology electives, like Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Genetics, and Cell Biology, “are top notch courses [in] getting students prepared for the bench skills that they are going to face [during] college biology courses,” Associate Head of School, Mr. Webb Trenchard, said.
The only AP course that remotely scratches the college level is AP Biology. Still, this course has its limits—covering broad topics and not nearly reaching the same depth as Loomis’s CL Biology term courses.
Furthermore, because each department chooses what the CL course entails, certain classes are more closely aligned to their AP counterpart than others. Yet, in light of this inconsistency, teachers in CL classes press students to take the exam nonetheless. Some add subtle remarks about the number of students who take the exam by the end of the course. In contrast, others automatically register their students for the College Board’s online “AP Classroom,” a portal full of resources regarding the AP exam—stressing an expectancy to take the exam eventually.
To make matters worse, administering the AP exams on campus adds even more stress for students. Thus, the only way for Loomis to fully break out of the AP system created by the College Board is to advise students against taking the exam outwardly.
There is already an unhealthy competition between students, and whether or not they take an AP exam adds to the cutthroat environment. As teachers repeatedly discuss the importance of providing a balanced workload for students, an opposition to students taking the AP exam would improve their overall mental health.