By: Ibbe Ashruf
About thirteen years ago, Gilman decided not to offer Advanced Placement courses in the Humanities, such as AP U.S. History, AP World History, and AP European History. Today, many Gilman boys still question why they are not allowed to take such courses. Upper School Head Mr. Robert Heubeck explains a couple of reasons why Gilman chooses not to offer these courses: “The AP program, run by the College Board, mandates that the teacher creates an ‘audit’ for which all the exercises, assignments, materials, are to be sent to them. You pretty much have to follow their curriculum, and each teacher has the liberty for time devoted to each topic, but you are restricted by teaching all of the material by the time of the AP exam, (usually in early May) which did not allow the instructor autonomy to teach the course that they wanted to teach.” Additionally, Mr. Heubeck recognizes a situation that happens to some girls at RPCS that creates a divide in the students of each class. By measuring a student’s aptitude for an AP course through grades and teacher recommendations, some students who might find success in an AP course are left out.
Furthermore, Gilman creates an environment where students of different abilities and strengths can be in the same class which eliminates a “superclass” of individuals. Gilman student, Bryan Huang (‘18), said, “Initially, I would say yes to AP offerings for the humanities, but on second thought, I really think that when you take an AP, it is really just preparation for a test and that would be really restrictive for a teacher. I do not think that is the best situation for the Humanities like AP English and AP US History.” The AP program allows for students to experience a college level class, build college skills, and stand out from other college applicants, but it also limits a student’s perspective to the topics covered in a three-hour long test.
On the other side of the bridge, the AP Humanities courses have the same struggles as those Mr. Heubeck lays out, but teachers and students are making efforts to change the scene of such courses. When asked about the status of the AP environment at RPCS, Ms. Ereni Malfa, Upper School Head of Roland Park Country School, says, “I think that the structure of APs is a struggle that students and teachers both deal with at every school because a teacher cannot spend time on things that they favor due to the obligation of teaching all relevant material before the AP exam. I think that the value of AP is being talked about today whether the AP curriculum is too restrictive, and I know the College Board is planning on making the changes to their courses. I think our teachers still work really hard to incorporate other options like debates and projects aside from the test material.” Contrarily, Ms. Malfa believes that the biggest problem with the AP system in the tri-school is not the structure of the course, but rather that it pulls students out of coordination within the tri-school.
From the student perspective, Marsie Salvatori, a senior, who currently takes AP European Civilization at RPCS and has taken AP English Literature, AP US History, and AP World History, says that there is not a divide between the class and that there is not any competition between girls but verifies that it is necessary to stick to the curriculum. However, Marsie also said, “Although the “teaching to the test” definitely can limit flexibility within the material being taught, bump classes often provide extra time for the teachers to implement activities or lesson plans that are not in the AP curriculum.”
In the tri-school environment and at schools across the nation, students are pressured, to take the offered AP courses at their school. In the end, AP courses are regarded and highly sought after for their shine on college resumes, but students and educators around the country should challenge themselves to be careful when taking AP courses due to their confined and abridged nature, which makes for an lesser understanding of the topic.