AP Changes

By Anna M. ’21

Picture this: you’re the average student, but because of quarantine you haven’t seen your AP US History teacher face-to-face in person or virtually in over a month. Your class had been preparing for the AP exam, but because you haven’t gotten any instructions or class materials from your teacher you aren’t sure whether you will be prepared or able to take the exam.

This situation leaves the student alone to navigate these unprecedented circumstances; a reality that hundreds of thousands of high school students are facing right now is a kind of isolation that may seem implausible to some Winsor students due to how quickly we have been able to transition to online school. One of the many things that have been disrupted by the Coronavirus epidemic is the May AP exams for high school students. The College Board, the company that runs the exams, has changed them into 45-minute online exams and is also trying to make them accessible to students from all backgrounds. But are these changes enough? 

Current discourse on the subject has teachers and students all across the country feeling conflicted. On the one hand, some people think that since students have been preparing for these exams all year, they should take these exams if they are able to. Avery Beber ’20 is currently taking two AP classes, and she says, “I think that students should be allowed to take APs because we have worked for the whole year to prepare for them, and many of us are hoping to get credit for college. I think that the College Board made the right decision by saying that no material after March would be on the exams, so that way everyone who was taking an AP class, regardless of if their classes are continuing, has the chance to take the test.” Alongside Sophia Copeman ’20, Avery said she is “personally glad that I get to take them because I’ve been taking the class all year and working hard to learn the concepts. I want a chance to see this pay off by getting college credit on the exam.”

On the other hand, many argue that these online exams disadvantage the kids in public schools without the extent of online schooling resources that most private schools utilize, meaning that students in AP classes are no longer being taught how to prepare for their exams. A Gallup News poll reported that roughly 88% of private school students use video chat and virtual conferencing to stay connected with schools, compared to only 39% of public school students. In addition to online learning and test-prep resources, variables like computer access, internet stability, and a quiet learning environment are not accessible to many students in the U.S. with one NPR poll reporting that an estimated 12 million of the nation’s public school students lack internet access at home. The AP exams are supposed to judge a student’s advanced knowledge in a subject in order to award college credit, but is it fair to judge if some students aren’t currently learning? 

Julian Braxton, Director of Community and Inclusion at Winsor, feels conflicted and had this to say, “The College Board has responded to the current crisis by changing the format, and content and skills covered this school year. Those changes will certainly help students, but they didn’t tackle the profound educational divide that exists in this country.” To Mr. Braxton, this educational divide makes these exams unfair: “Many students are at a disadvantage because they don’t have access to reliable internet access or computers. I am torn about whether the exams should continue, but I am not torn about the fact that this country has to prioritize fixing the inequity in education that has existed for far too long.” 

While it would be disappointing to not have the opportunity to take an AP exam that you had prepared for throughout the year, it is important to acknowledge that some students are now at a greater disadvantage, given that the ability to continue to prepare for AP exams in a new, remote learning environment varies greatly depending on the school and the resources a student has available.