What we should do to help our students

Opinion: The advanced placement classes force children to become more mentally mature before they are ready to be.

Written by JEFFREY LI, Director of Circulation / Published November 1, 2013 

This past year, Temple City High School administered 1,145 Advanced Placement (AP) tests to 467 students, and 84.5 percent of these students passed at least one test with a score of 3 or above (on the scale of 1-5).

These statistics are very impressive, especially when you compare them to the national average pass rate of 63.5 percent and consider how it implies that 84.5 percent of TCHS students are already prepared for college courses. However, the rigor of AP classes has caused many to criticize the system, claiming that it challenges students with too much, too quickly. I, personally, agree with this, but I think the solution to the problem is not to dissuade students from challenging themselves but to instead prepare them for the challenges before they arrive.

The trend parents and school administrators are afraid of is this: students, urged by the competition going on around them, apply for every class available, start every club imaginable, and attend as many SAT classes as possible. It is a recipe for disaster that often results in missing homework assignments, lack of sleep, and sadly, depression due to poor academic achievement. How can we prepare them for this future? We start with renovating the curriculum of the elementary and middle schools.

We can offer Honors or advanced classes in middle school. We can do more with the GATE system. We can bolster our elementary school science education so that students don’t go into sophomore chemistry not knowing what the periodic table is. We can bring back grammar, so students don’t go into high school not knowing what a gerund is, or where to place a semicolon. What we cannot do is expect students to master college level concepts in one or two years of high school if they have never been exposed to them beforehand.

Our current model for “success” expects too much out of children. It forces students to learn at an exponential rate, rather than gradually. It pushes students who are honed with docile curricula to suddenly be able to manage AP classes. This model is preposterous, and we cannot amend this model by making it easier; we have to produce better prepared students.

John F. Kennedy once said, “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.” I’m praying to our school district to help students become stronger earlier for the future that awaits them.

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