AP Schedule Insanity

Andover prides itself on its dedicated students. There is no doubt that Phillips Academy students came to Andover because they were and are motivated to succeed in a very demanding environment. It follows that many PA students are motivated enough to want to earn college credit for their difficult courses by taking Advanced Placement exams. We are given the opportunity to learn amazing things from amazing teachers in an amazing place— why shouldn’t we make the most of it? In an effort to help us do so, the administration releases students from their commitments for several hours on days they are taking APs. This accommodation helps but does not help enough. During AP weeks, students struggle to perform well in both their classes and on the AP tests. Certainly some teachers are extremely helpful. They build AP review time into their curriculum, they give generous extensions, and they offer their free time for make-up sessions to help students catch up who missed classes for their APs. Other faculty members require their students to complete major assignments regardless of the AP schedule; indeed, the administration does not issue any guidelines to teachers about how they should schedule major assignments during AP weeks. While coursework is very important, teachers could be more flexible. In courses that prepare students for AP exams but are not considered AP courses, such as certain English and History courses, some students had major assignments due the same day as that subject’s AP. As a result, they were forced to choose between studying for the AP and studying for their tests, which they had to take during a free period since they missed class. Some Uppers even had to turn in their History term papers the Monday after the Friday History AP. End of trimester exams are taken far more seriously on campus. Classes are shortened the day before exams so that teachers may finish reviewing, and classes are not held at all during exam days. Though end of trimester exams may determine students’ course grades, AP exams allow students to gain college credit. Plus, students can demonstrate the level of difficulty of an AP course at Andover by scoring well on the AP despite their average grades in the class. Making students’ lives even more hectic, the school held Saturday classes and Grandparents’ Weekend on the weekend between AP weeks. Although it is difficult to find available weekends for an event such as Grandparent’s Weekend, students taking APs were forced to wake up early on Saturday and had to choose between studying for APs and spending time with their grandparents. The school cannot control the fast pace of AP weeks nor the order of the exams. But more flexibility and understanding among faculty and administration and a slower pace of courses could make those two weeks more manageable, less stressful, and ultimately more successful for students.