Right now, several MHS students are in midst of taking their AP qualifying tests for the 2019-2020 school year. This seems to be one topic that not only causes contention among students, but also among parents and the administration, so I spoke to some of my peers and parents to get their thoughts on:
- Should students have to take AP qualifying tests?
- Is getting an A for both quarter 1 and the midterm a reasonable requirement to get into an AP class automatically?
- Should non-accelerated students be allowed to apply to AP classes?
Should students have to take AP qualifying tests?
Simply put, many students believe the AP qualifying tests are irritating. Why create more stress when students are already stressed out about their current classes? It’s understandable that teachers want to identify which students are truly ready for college-level courses. However, a qualifier seems unnecessary when there is already so much data to pull about students from grades to teacher recommendations to even student interviews, if it comes to that. Our current disheartening system possibly prevents those who worked very hard in the precursor class and got fantastic teacher recommendations from taking a class they are passionate about. A student’s grades over a period of time and overall learning attitude are better representations of whether a student is ready for the next level in education. A single test is irrelevant after evaluating all of that.
The parental belief is that the qualifying tests are an impartial way to judge who is ready for AP. Teacher recommendations are easily biased based on favoritism, whether the teacher intends for that to be true. It’s only natural that students with certain personalities would appeal to teachers more than others. Grades are similarly biased. It’s in fact unfair to judge students largely based on grades because we know that some teachers in the precursor subject are far harsher graders than others.
Is getting an A for both quarter 1 and the midterm a reasonable requirement to get into an AP class automatically?
Before discussing other responses to this question, I want to make it clear that I believe the decision to let certain students automatically into AP classes is a step in the right direction. The students who earned those top grades definitely deserve to have this advantage, yet the threshold seems almost impossibly high, and the people I spoke to largely agree. The people who got As deserve to get in automatically. That does not mean students with the slightly lower A minus don’t deserve to also automatically get in. Yes, Millburn should maintain high standards, but an A minus does not cause a significant decrease. Excellence varies according to teacher and course load. It’s unfair to bar students who would have gotten an A instead of an A minus had they had an easier teacher. Getting an A with one teacher may be far easier than getting an A from another, so we cannot regard all teachers as if they have the same exact teaching and grading style.
The parental view is that this system generally works. There are always students who deserve what the system doesn’t provide for. That doesn’t mean that the whole system should change. Taking a qualifier is not the big inconvenience students make it out to be, and if a student is really so deserving, taking one more test shouldn’t be a problem. If the system changed to allow for all students with A and A minus averages in automatically, then too many undeserving students would slip to the cracks. We do still want to maintain the exclusivity of AP classes.
Should non-accelerated students be allowed to apply to AP classes?
This was the question where both student and parent opinions matched. Students in any level should absolutely be given an equal opportunity to apply for AP classes, and in that way, the qualifying tests are beneficial. They put everyone on the same level, giving them the same chance. Just because someone didn’t take the accelerated precursor class doesn’t mean that s/he is not deserving of taking the AP class. It’s possible the student made the conscious choice not to take an accelerated class due to non-academic commitments or focus on different classes. It’s even possible that the student was just messed up by our current system. Middle school class level essentially determines freshman class level, and it’s harder to maintain an A in CPA than it is to maintain a B minus in accelerated. In some cases, the CPA classes are even very similar to the accelerated. Not to forget, a student can be for example, great at physics and deficient in chemistry and biology. That doesn’t mean that student should not be allowed to take an AP physics course. That system doesn’t need to change, we just need to prevent further damage from taking place.
This is one issue where I can honestly say no decision will make a majority happy. There is so much division that maybe the solution is leaving things the way they are. Changing anything will lead to definite disadvantages for more than the system currently does. It’s worth having a few unhappy people than to risk having an unhappy majority.