BY JACK BRADY
The AP program has long been held as an incredible opportunity for students, allowing them to pursue college courses while still attending high school, benefiting their GPA and potentially saving them thousands in college tuition. Courses range from everything from Geography to Calculus, and are all known for their difficulty and rigor, especially AP Biology and U.S. History. However, major changes are coming to the AP program: entirely new curriculums, teaching methods, and assignments will be phased into the program for the 2012-2013 school year. These changes will reshape how students and teachers alike learn and teach, yet luckily, these changes are for the better, giving students a more engaging and entertaining curriculum.
College Board, a nonprofit organization that manages the AP program, intends to focus on altering Biology and American history courses specifically. Currently, both courses rely heavily on memorization of facts and data, forcing teachers to spend less time teaching students major concepts. As a result, they must teach a variety of information because of the incredibly broad spectrum of material the AP test can cover. As you can see, this makes courses much more difficult than they otherwise need to be, placing a burden on students. Furthermore, many feel that this doesn’t accurately reflect a college curriculum, which emphasizes critical thinking and conceptual thought rather than memorization.
College Board has acknowledged this and is now reworking the program to emulate college courses. Science courses will now allow students to design their own experiments and studies, simultaneously giving them more creative liberty while teaching important concepts behind the study of biology. For history courses, especially American history, there will be less focus on memorization of specific historical dates and more on creating historical arguments and analyzing events. While the workload may not exactly be reduced, it’s certainly more engaging and less stressful, something all students can appreciate.
For the most part, these are very positive changes for both teachers and students. Teachers will have a curriculum that is much easier to teach and administer, while students are given a curriculum that may not exactly be easier, but is certainly less strenuous and gives them some creativity and freedom. However, there are still drawbacks to the program that need tweaking and some challenges facing schools when implementation begins. The math requirements for AP Biology have been raised, certainly discouraging students not otherwise inclined towards math, and the new emphasis on student-led lab activity and advanced equipment may not even be possible in cash-strapped schools already struggling with their current lab activities.
In the end, there is no doubt the AP curriculum changes will have a profound impact on both students and teachers, but all can be rest assured that the changes will certainly be for the better. The curriculum will be easier to comprehend and to learn, classroom activities and labs will be more engaging and creative, and the updated program will ultimately aid students and allow them to excel in their studies for years to come.