AP Government Provides Benefits but Creates Controversy

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AP Government Provides Benefits but Creates Controversy

Review guide publishers have not yet printed new books for the AP Gov. redesigned course.

Review guide publishers have not yet printed new books for the AP Gov. redesigned course.

Isabella Colby

Review guide publishers have not yet printed new books for the AP Gov. redesigned course.

Isabella Colby

Isabella Colby

Review guide publishers have not yet printed new books for the AP Gov. redesigned course.

Riley Goodfellow, Co Editor-In-Chief

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In the fall of 2017, a new AP Government class was implemented at SJHHS. This class was created to give seniors a more accessible AP course that would prepare them for the rigor of college.

Controversy and questions have risen however, because the class does not teach a full semester of economics, which according to California Education Code 51225.3, is a necessary requirement to graduate.

The Education Code reads, “a pupil shall complete all of the following while in grades 9 to 12 in order to receive a diploma of graduation from high school: a one-semester course in American government and civics; and a one-semester course in economics.”

UC’s and CSU’s do not require seniors to have taken a semester of economics. The state Education Code is more stringent than the colleges demand, nonetheless it is still considered a requirement to graduate high school.

John Baker, an AP Government/AP Macroeconomics teacher at SJHHS, and the person who has worked on designing the class, said, “We need to look to include more students in high level, rigorous education, and make their junior and senior year matter more… the overall net benefit of gaining a college level course makes up for the issue of not getting an entire semester of economics in.”

The College Board states that for Government and Politics, “there is no prescribed sequence of study or course length… courses are designed to be half-year courses, although some high schools teach them as full-year courses.”

We said yes to something that we didn’t get everyone’s input on… we made the huge mistake of not hearing all voices [but] I’ve apologized to the staff [and] ultimately, it’s an administrative decision.”

— Jennifer Smalley

Baker said, “District wide, we have year long AP Government classes… we are not the only high school to to offer a year long AP Government class.”

There is not a problem with AP Government being a year long class. Instead, the controversy surrounds that fact that students are not receiving the prescribed amount of economics instruction, thinking that by taking AP Government they are fulfilling all of their history/social science graduation requirements.

But Principal, Jennifer Smalley, said, “I talked to the district curriculum specialist, she looked into [AP Government] for us, and she said it was already approved. The way it was approved was that the economics standards are spread in. Once one school in CUSD has a class, board approved, no one else has to go through the process… [and] it was already board approved at five [other] high schools.”

Josh Hill, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction in CUSD, said, “the course was approved by the Board of Trustees to satisfy both the one semester of government and one semester of economics graduation requirements based on the idea that the course addresses the state’s content standards for these two subjects.”

According to Smalley, the course does address the state’s content standards for economics.

“My understanding, from what I’ve been told from the teachers that proposed the class to us originally, is that there’s not just two weeks [of economics], it’s that the economic standards are embedded throughout the curriculum,” said Smalley.

Baker said, “we do teach economics in that class and it’s embedded…but [students] are not getting that full semester of economics.” The discrepancy is what has led to much controversy.

I’m a proponent of economics, I think every student should know it and will use it, so I hope it is taught thoroughly in all senior social science classes.”

— Josh Hunnicutt

The uncertainty of whether the class meets the necessary requirements is a reason the class is controversial, but Smalley also thinks a large reason is due to the fact that it was implemented without involving many teachers.

“We said yes to something that we didn’t get everyone’s input on… we made the huge mistake of not hearing all voices [but] I’ve apologized to the staff [and] ultimately, it’s an administrative decision,” said Smalley.

Additionally, the implementation of the AP Government class changed the way students view the non-AP or College Prep Economics and Government class which created some issues.

“What used to be a ‘regular’ class is now perceived to be the lowest of the three classes offered… and students tell me they are asked ‘Do you want to take AP Government or level down?’ But, I don’t like that connotation, we all prepare students for college,” said social science teacher, Josh Hunnicutt.

“Since students are automatically enrolled in AP Government or AP Government/AP Macroeconomics, students have told me they are reluctant to ‘level down’,” said Hunnicutt.

We do teach economics in that class and it’s embedded…but [students] are not getting that full semester of economics.”

— John Baker

This has led to only two periods of the College Prep Economics and Government classes being taught as opposed to the five to seven periods that existed before.

“I’m a proponent of economics, I think every student should know it and will use it, so I hope it is taught thoroughly in all senior social science classes,” said Hunnicutt.

Smalley said, “hopefully with time, teachers will see how beneficial it is for [students] to have more options.”

Alumni Zoe Lambiase found the class to be extremely beneficial and liked having the extra option. “It was my first time taking an AP class and I think it was a good way to adjust to harder courses and college expectations… Despite not spending a ton of time on economics, the small foundation I do have for it has been really helpful,” said Lambiase.

This was exactly Baker’s goal when he came up with the class, to make sure students who had never taken an AP course feel encouraged and confident enough to do so before they graduate. The only concern is that it is unclear if students have graduated without meeting the necessary requirements.

Ultimately, the class only seeks to aid seniors however, much controversy has surrounded it because of how it was implemented, the effects it’s had on other teachers, and the fact that Education Code 51225.3 requires a full semester of economics to graduate, which the class is currently not fulfilling.

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