This is my article from issue #1 of 2017 in Cupertino High School’s newspaper, The Prospector
In an academically competitive environment like CHS, many argue that Advanced Placement (AP) and honors courses are a key contributor to the constant stress faced by students.
AP classes are based on undergraduate-level curricula designed by the College Board in collaboration with university professors. At the end of the school year, students are tested for mastery on a subject through an AP exam. Honors courses are developed by teachers in the school to be rigorous and act as a stepping stone towards AP classes. Many students feel parental and peer pressure to take these such classes to remain on par with others when it comes to college applications. This herd mentality often causes students to overload their courses with AP and honors classes. Critics of these rigorous courses argue that one way to solve this issue is by capping the number of weighted classes a student can take. They believe that preventing students from registering for more than a certain number of advanced classes will avoid unnecessary stress. While this may seem like a good idea at face value, there are many repercussions of a cap which are significantly worse than the status quo.
There are many benefits that AP classes provide; for one, a student earns college credits upon success on an AP test. Although these credits may not go towards a student’s intended major, they may allow the student to skip general elective classes. For example, earning a passing score on the AP US History test can exempt you from a history class at most schools in the UC system. This can potentially save thousands of dollars in tuition, textbooks and time. It is also worth noting that AP and honors classes have a higher weight per semester than regular classes, thereby enabling students to take on more difficult classes without putting their GPA at risk. AP classes encourage the development of college-level academic skills and are a great way for students to demonstrate to college admissions officers that they can succeed in challenging courses.
By capping the number of AP and honors classes a student can take, the school would effectively penalize those who are academically-focused, diligent and genuinely interested in courses for the sake of those with other priorities. Many students are capable of handling difficult course loads; this new rule would essentially act as an academic handicap. If a cap is placed on weighted classes, any ambitious students will find other means to achieve their goals.
Apart from AP classes offered in school, there are many outlets for students to pursue university-level coursework. For one, students can self-study for the AP tests by using relevant textbooks and prep materials. Others may also choose to take classes at nearby community colleges to earn transferable credits. Removing the opportunity to take AP classes at Cupertino with a cap would ultimately cause students to seek other ways at extra cost. Overall, a limit on the weighted classes in student schedules would not only be a waste of time for administration, but it would also exacerbate stress problems at CHS. Ambitious students will seek other means to take college-level classes and other students will feel pressured to follow suit.
Proponents of this rule suggest that it would alleviate stress, but this is not necessarily accurate; rather, the stress would instead shift elsewhere. Although it is important that we continue to search for ways to reduce the stress that the majority of students face in our school, capping the number of weighted classes a student can take would be an ineffective approach to reducing stress levels at CHS.