AP Offers Taste of College, Credits

Alexa Conrad, Editor

Radford High School currently offers 11 Advanced Placement courses among its English, social studies, science, and math disciplines, with 271 AP students enrolled in these courses.

According to the school’s AP flyer, the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program (AP) enables willing and academically prepared students to pursue college-level studies — with the opportunity to earn college credit, advanced placement, or both — while still in high school.

Students enrolled in Radford’s AP classes are required to take the exams, which are offered each year in May. Students who score a qualifying score (a 3 or higher on a 5 point scale) on an AP exam, may earn college credit and/or placement into advanced courses in college. High school students who earn college credits now can save themselves a significant amount of money towards college.

Students register for AP classes for a variety of reasons. For one, AP classes offer a challenging curriculum, similar to what might be taught in a college level class.

Taking AP courses usually involves more work outside of class. It teaches students how to manage a college-level workload and understand the importance of keeping up with their work in order to meet deadlines.

“[T]ime management, perseverance and dealing with stress,” AP Calculus teacher Grant Takiguchi said, “will make you successful in life.”

AP classes also allows students to explore possible careers. Sophomore Viva Tauanuu registered for two AP courses after sitting in on Career Day speaker Judge Bode Uale’s session.

“I am taking AP Language, and AP Government next year because I want to major in law,” she said.

Advanced Placement courses also teach students more than content. Each AP teacher can attest to life skills used in his/her classes.

AP World History teacher Gwynne Johnson said that her students are “learning who you can trust to work with, and  learning how to give and take as you learn to work as a team.”

AP Language and Composition and AP Literature and Composition teacher Andy Jones believes that his AP classes will enhance students speaking, reading, and writing.

“In addition to the readiness for college writing that will be enhanced by the AP English course(s), students, I believe, also feel that their command of the English language on the whole is stronger after they have completed the course(s),” he said. “Students have become more powerful speakers, readers, writers, and general users of the English language.”

Students who elect to enroll in AP courses may not always earn an “A” grade, but colleges recognize the workload associated with AP courses.

College Counselor Malia Kau said, “AP courses [are] a way for students to get a taste of what college level courses are like. [They can] take the courses in a comfortable and familiar environment.  Studies also show that students who take AP courses are more likely to finish college as well as do better in their college courses. Taking an AP course allows students to challenge themselves academically. Colleges like seeing challenging coursework on transcripts.”      

As AP classes help students complete more college courses while in high school, their college schedule can become more flexible too, which can in turn encourage them to complete college.

Radford’s boasts an 11 percent increase of students taking AP classes. Kau also noticed that as the number of AP exams increased by 5 percent, there was a 6 percent increase in qualifying scores. According to Kau, this is unusual. Typically when the number of AP students that take the test goes up, qualifying scores go down.

While AP courses has its benefits, not everyone is signing up for the classes.

 Some see AP classes as too challenging for their ability. Others may see a heavy workload, or the potential sresss that may come with the amount of assignments, since most AP classes will also require a summer assignment designed to help students prepare for the class.

“I believe that many students fear the amount of work they will have to do in AP courses. Some students have work and/or family obligations that make such fears a realistic concern. They should certainly take such considerations into account when planning their courses for the following year,” Jones said. “The AP English courses do not necessarily mean a great deal more work for students outside of class than students would be doing in a non-AP course. Certainly in my classes there is some extra outside work, but in fact the difference is not too great. The main consideration is that students need to be consistent and punctual with their submission of assignments and for their overall preparation for class.”

While this can be a common concern for students entering an AP class for the first time, teachers noticed that as technology progresses these classes can be more manageable.

“My [class] is difficult, but do-able IF a student keeps up with the assignments and turns in work in a timely manner with quality,” Johnson said. “The biggest obstacle for students in all AP classes is the time-management problem, although with Google Classroom, this has become more user friendly.”

While these classes offer a boost to their GPA, students  going into AP worry about how it could impact their GPA negatively.

“I think many students are afraid to get grades lower than they are used to. I had a student that had straight As in their classes.  That tells me they could use a little more challenge. But, that student was afraid of the possibility of getting anything lower than an A. In the eyes of a college rep, the B in AP is better than an A in a regular level course,” Kau said.

Another obstacle that can dissuade a student from joining an AP class is the preparation to entering class. Honors classes are offered to students looking to take a class that is a little more challenging than general education classes. Students can also take Gifted and Talented English classes, which require test scores for admittance. In the category of math, most students who end up taking an AP mathematics class do so because they are a year ahead in math. All of these help to prepare a student, and give them a clearer idea of what they will be expecting in an AP class.However, some students who seek to join an AP class do not have this experience, and many AP teachers question how they can determine whether a student is still eligible for their course.

Takiguchi explained the importance behind these preparation based classes.

“Finishing prerequisite classes with a good understanding of the material [promote] determination and motivation, curiosity for knowledge, good attitude, and a good work ethic,” he said.

While AP teachers believe students need preparation for these classes, some students feel certain courses should be offered to freshmen and sophomores.

Robert Argueza (9) said, “All the AP classes that I’m interested in are already here, but it would be helpful to have them available for [underclassmen],” he said.

Overall, despite the challenges of an AP class, its offers numerous benefits to students and for the school.

“With an increase in success in AP, we will be viewed as a competitive and rigorous high school that prepares our students to be college and career ready,” Kau said.

Next year, Radford plans to add AP Psychology and AP Chemistry to its list of Advanced Placement courses.

Advanced Placement Environmental students Rossandra Martinez (12), Alyssa Phillips (12). and Shantel Lagard (12) build a self sustaining ecosystem in Reyna Miles’ classroom. Radford High School offers 11 AP courses with over 270 students enrolled. AP courses are “a way for students to get a taste of what college level courses are like. Taking an AP course allows students to challenge themselves academically,” College Counselor Malia Kau said.