AP Classes Raise New Concerns


Wauwatosa West students registering for AP Classes

Aral Nen and Nathaniel Schultz

Advanced Placement or “A.P.” courses are optional courses at many high schools, however a new requirement makes it necessary for sophomore students to take an A.P. Human Geography course at Wauwatosa West High School.

“A.P. pretty much teaches you how to work by yourself, and teaches you good rigor which colleges like to see,” said Career Center Resource Manager Turqoise Welch-Loera.

More students are enrolling in AP classes at Wauwatosa West.  In 2017, more students took an AP class than any other previous year.  Over 500 students took at least one A.P. class.  

The College Board administers over 50 Advanced Placement courses and the SAT. The College Board makes sure high school students taking Advanced Placement courses are taking a college level course.

The requirement for all sophomores to take an A.P “college level” class has raised concerns.

“We get nervous when a student tries to take 3 A.P. classes” said Hoffman, “all A.P. classes are tough, it will be a learning curve for students, but for the most part kids make good decisions,” said Wauwatosa West Guidance Counselor Brian Hoffman.

All A.P. classes offered at Wauwatosa West or any high school must have their syllabus approved by the College Board. Students enrolled in the course are preparing to take a common assessment prepared, administered and graded by the College Board. Students who earn a “3” or higher may be given credit when they enroll in college. It is up to the college to determine if a student is given credit for an AP class.

Students enrolled in A.P. classes in the Wauwatosa School District are not required to take the College Board exam.

The number of students taking AP classes in the district has been an upward trend up until 2017. According to data provided by Wauwatosa district data analyst Michelle Anderson, AP enrollment spiked at 75% of 11th and 12th graders taking an A.P class in 2015, but has dropped slightly to 73% in 2017.

Although enrollment has gone up in previous years test scores have gone down. In 2005, 78% of students taking the A.P exam scored a three or higher. Now in 2017 only 68% are scoring a three or higher on their exams. A ten percent drop in a matter of 12 years.  However enrollment in AP classes has increased significantly over the same period. With 59% of students enrolling in at least one AP class in 2012, and 73% enrolling during 2017.

80% of white enroll in one or more AP classes and 60% of non-white students enroll.

For the 2018-2019 school year, all 10th graders will take the A.P. Human Geography course.  A.P. Human Geography will replace the required 10th grade Social Studies course Global Studies.  Students will not be required to take the AP test.

Although both courses provide students with a global focus, the organization, structure and content of the courses differ slightly.  Global Studies looks at the world through regions like Europe, Africa or Asia. AP Human Geography examines “geographic” units like population, globalization, religions or language.

“It will be a little more challenging but I think the sophomores are up for it,” said Wauwatosa West Global Studies teacher Heidi Hegwood. “Its going to help students get more out of global studies.”

One concern regarding the required A.P. course is that students won’t be able to prosper in a required A.P. class at the sophomore level.

“I think every kid can succeed,” said School District Curriculum Specialist David Dentiger. “This is the most user friendly course and the way it’s being set up every kid can succeed. All this being said I’m not saying that kids won’t struggle.”

The increased rigor and expectations of an A.P. course can be difficult to manage for students. Guidance counselors generally recommend students limit the number of A.P. courses they are taking.

Senior Sam Kniffin has taken 3 A.P classes which is the preferable limit. “They definitely benefit, but I’ve been told they don’t actually prepare you for college,” he said.

Senior Sam Sebastian added “It depends on what you see yourself doing in the future and with your life.”

Welch-Loera feels different about the newly installed A.P. class requirement, and has indicated worries.

“I dont think these kids are ready” said Welch-Loera, “To think that you’ve somehow grown enough in a year to make that a requirement, it’s just not for everybody.”