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AP Gov Class For 2017-18

Sam Newman and Olivia Fu, Opinion Editor and News Editor

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The true-story movie Stand and Deliver tells the mission of a teacher in inner city LA who inspires a group of students to pass an AP test for calculus. That teacher saw a group of students who had been viewed their entire lives as “non-AP” students and taught them to pass one of the hardest AP tests.

SJHHS is trying to do something very similar with the new AP Government class for seniors.  

AP US Government is a new class for seniors at SJHHS for the 2017-2018 school year, and there will be three levels of senior government classes: AP Gov./Econ., AP Gov., and Gov.

This is a step in the right direction to have all students take an AP class before graduating.

Now, this AP US Government class has been added to offer a new baseline for all seniors to take part in the rigor of an AP. However, everyone will still have the choice to excel even further in AP Gov/Econ or level down to the regular US Government or Economics class.

Juniors currently in APUSH will be automatically enrolled in AP Gov/Econ, and juniors in regular US History will be enrolled into AP Gov.

This plan is a compromise from the original proposal to only offer AP Gov. and AP Gov/Econ. without the option of leveling down from an AP course. Now, the overall goal for proponents of that earlier plan, is to have this following year serve as a “pilot” for testing how the new class works and to measure the success of opening AP to more students.

Although it is not ideal to start with all three classes in existence, the new course should eventually phase out the regular level US history to have all seniors take an AP Government class.

When Mr. Baker, AP US Government and Macroeconomics teacher, proposed the idea that a new AP US Government class be required of the seniors at SJHHS, he was immediately met with strong opposition from students and teachers alike.

The majority of their arguments center on false blanket assumptions about both AP classes and SJHHS students: that all AP classes are equally rigorous, and that only a certain students are capable of taking AP classes.

Being automatically placed in an AP class as a senior, the student should remain in the class in order to understand what it is like to experience the AP level. If students give AP Gov. their best effort, and they will realize that the class is not at the difficulty level that many believe it will be.

By allowing seniors to take this class, it will expose college bound “non-AP” students to the college class experience that is necessary, regardless of the university they attend. For the students who will choose a different path of technical or trade school or not pursue college at all, the class would still allow them to gain vital civic knowledge that applies to being a US citizen.

Taking an AP class will not only push the students who should have been  placed in AP classes but chose to level down out of academic apathy, but it will also challenge students who may be perceived as incapable of AP classes, such as students with learning disabilities or those who have always been placed in regular level classes.

Some argue that English Language Development (ELD) students are unable to keep up with the rigors of an AP class and that providing them with the extra aid necessary to succeed would go against the purpose of AP courses. However, the actual College Board AP requirements state that AP courses provide accommodations for students with disabilities.

If the College Board accommodates for special circumstances of ELD students, SJHHS should be expected to do so. In fact, it is a requirement of educational code from the government: “The practice of denying, on the basis of disability, a qualified student with a disability the opportunity to participate in an accelerated program violates both Section 504 and Title II. ”

ELD students will still be learning the same language no matter the class they are enrolled in. The rigor of the class will not affect their capability to learn English.

AP classes are not limited to the traditional sense of “able-minded and able-bodied.” Opening the door to students who would normally be excluded from AP curriculum helps students rise to higher potentials.

Also, because SJHHS allows any student to choose to be in an AP class, it would be logical that the school should be accommodating for a disabled student to do so, otherwise, they are simply contradicting themselves.

One of the main concerns of the new class is that not every person is cut out for the rigor of an AP class, but this AP Gov. class should be regarded differently than other AP classes.

This will not be as hard as other AP classes because of the curve on the grading scale that prevents students from failing. The curved graded scale has been successful in other classes, like AP Chemistry. Unlike the AP Gov/Econ. class, which counts as an eight credit course, AP Gov. will only be four credits.

The term “AP class” does not mean that every course given that label has the same level of difficulty. AP simply means that the class offers college level curriculum and provides an opportunity for students to earn college credit. Many students are scared off at the idea of an “AP course” because they equate all AP classes to be the same.

The school isn’t asking all students to take AP Calculus or AP Spanish V. AP Government is different. It is teaching a subject that is essential for all students to have a thorough knowledge of past graduation, and the class, while still college level, is much easier than many of its other AP counterparts.

The lower amount of credits allows for a slower and more comfortable learning pace, due to having less content to cover.

Despite belief, the curve and slower pace is not compromising the integrity of the AP program. All other public schools in CUSD have an AP Gov. class and still maintain a rigorous and high level program.

The caste system of school is basically split into three tiers: regular classes, honors, and then AP. This is an unacceptable way to view education and not how students and teachers should perceive each other. By having all students on a baseline of the AP Gov. class, we as a school will not perpetuate this hierarchy.

Often times, students are slated as “AP” or “non-AP” students by the affluence of their parents or by parent involvement. Those whose parents are making less or were not college-educated are less likely to encourage their children to take higher level courses: these students are unaware of their ability to academically achieve. This perpetuates a cycle of this demographic of students taking lower level courses, receiving lower salaries later in life and raising their children to do the same.

Racial stereotypes can also be enforced by this fixed mentality of who belongs in AP and who doesn’t. Nationwide, “Black and Latino students make up 37% of students in high schools, 27% of students enrolled in at least one Advanced Placement (AP) course, and 18% of students receiving a qualifying score of 3 or above on an AP exam,” according to the U.S. Education Department.

This achievement gap is often attributed to a lack of opportunity, and enrollment, in advanced courses in elementary and middle schools. By the time these students reach high school and are surrounded by other students who have had opportunities to participate in advanced programs at a younger age, they are at a disadvantage and can feel as if they are simply not capable of achieving the same standards.

Upon noticing the disparity between the number of white students, low income students, and minority students in advanced and AP classes, Evanston Township High School decided to “detrack”  all of the incoming  freshman students by placing everyone in honors english and honors history. Six years later, the school is seeing the positive results of this inclusive mindset.

After the first class to go through this program graduated in 2015, the school found  “that [this] group posted the highest average ACT score (23.9) in school history (a score of 20 is the national ACT average), took the most AP courses in school history, and earned the highest number of college-ready scores of 3 or more on AP exams.”

While this program is not identical to the “AP Gov. for All” proposition at SJHHS, it is an example of how pushing all students to pursue higher academic standards has lasting positive outcomes. Not only did it benefit students in regards to GPA and test scores, but it helped shape their mentalities, by “enabl[ing] students to focus on meeting high standards instead of doubting their intellectual abilities.

The AP Gov. class is a representation of teachers saying to students that they believe in them, that they are all equal in their eyes, and that they can be anyone they want to be–even an “AP student.”

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