Push for Cap on ‘Stressful’ Advanced Placement Courses

Some teachers and counselors at some of the nation's most competitive public and private schools are calling for a cap on the number of Advanced Placement (AP) courses a student can take, saying they're just too stressful, writes Jill Tucker at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Many believe that AP courses are the only way students can push past their straight-A peers if they want to compete for a spot at the nation's most competitive public and private colleges. The AP's college-level classes usually offer a grade-point premium, which can boost a good B up to a GPA around a more-impressive A.

Over the last ten years these courses have become more and more popular. But as the amount of classes' increases, so does the work load.

"With four or more hours a day of homework, even sleep is often an afterthought," writes Tucker.

Students who enroll in AP courses are normally expected to take an $87 exam at the end of the year. But these expensive exams could translate into college credit and long-term tuition savings of 30-40x the cost of the test. Also, AP courses can give students an edge over their peers with similar SAT test scores or high school grades.

Jim Spellicy, a Lowell AP economics teacher, doesn't support a cap.

"How do you know if a student can do it or not?

"I think the students should be given an opportunity."

Currently, many public and private schools across the country do cap the number of AP classes allowed, as many universities want to see well-rounded students who balance academics with other activities. The Stanford University online admissions page clearly states:

"We want to be clear that this is not a case of ‘whoever has the most APs wins'."

The pressure to push APs doesn't just come from parents and students. In public schools, AP classes are a money maker.

The College Board gives schools $8 for every AP test taken, but on top of that, Advanced Placement teachers in San Francisco and many other districts have a lighter teaching load so they have more time to plan and prepare.

It means schools like Lowell offering more AP classes get more teachers than schools with the same number of students and fewer APs.

Capping the number of AP classes would likely result in staffing cuts.

"It's a position-maker," Spellicy said.

"We definitely have a divided faculty on the question."

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