Teachers Feel Restricted By AP Curriculum

Although the Advanced Placement (AP) program has played a large role in the PA curriculum for over 30 years, teachers feel increasingly restricted by its teachings. Many AP Instructors have expanded their syllabi to explore topics not covered in standard AP classes because they feel that concentrating on the AP system limits their ability to cover more important topics in the course. However, many parents and students still feel pressure to take as many AP exams as possible, and that a dearth of these exams would harm their college applications. Nonetheless, courses like Bio 540, and many others in the PA curriculum are moving away from AP curriculums Moreover, to many teachers, APs seem unnecessary as some Andover courses are not only college level, but at the rank of second-year college courses. In most public schools, the materials taught in class strictly follow the AP curriculum and is designed to solely prepare the student to pass the exam. Most AP classes are equivalent to a first-year college course, and students who take AP classes can earn college credits while still in high school. Raj Mundra, Instructor in Biology, said, “What we’re slowly doing is saying that a lot of the curriculum is similar to the AP curriculum and if the student wants to take the test, they’re going to have to do a few things on their own. We think that we have a curriculum that’s more interesting and more relevant than the AP curriculum.” Andover’s modified schedule affects the AP curriculum taught at the Academy. Most classes meet only four times a week with a double period on either Wednesday or Thursday. Although the double adds to class time, the total amount of hours in class are still less than the five one-hour classes offered at most other schools. Because of this, most AP classes at Andover are taught at slightly accelerated pace. Patrick Farrell, Instructor in Math, said, “Even with less class time in a week, we still cover all the AP topics and expand on more subjects. We have approximately two or three weeks of class after the exam that we go into deeper topics.” Andover’s AP courses are well-known and respected by colleges. PA’s 500 level science courses are particularly well-known, and most colleges will consider a five or six in the class over an AP exam grade. Mr. Mundra said, “Most colleges understand that getting a 5 or a 6 in a 500 level science course at Andover is difficult and getting a 4 or 5 on an AP is less meaningful in comparison. Here if you get a 5 or a 6 at that level course, the colleges will know you know your stuff.” Many courses at Andover will cover subjects that are presented in a second year college course. Mr. Mundra said, “Our Bio 560, 570, and 580 covers topics beyond a first-year college course. In a lot of ways, these courses are better than a science course taught in college. You’re in a 50 or 100 person lecture [in college] and over here you’ve got 12 or 15 kids in a class. You can really get into the material much more and have discussions as in college but with a smaller environment.”