How many AP classes do you need?

How many AP classes do you need?

I wonder if every high school is like the one my kids attend and they push AP (advanced placement) classes harder than drugs from the corner dealer. Maybe I was just really dumb and it wasn’t an option for me, but I don’t remember AP classes being a thing when I was in high school. Now, it seems like it’s all anyone can talk about.

Course selection for next year is already happening. My daughter went into her counselor requesting one AP and left with four. I have very little “Tiger Mom” in me when it comes to grades and pushing kids to excel in school. I was very passionate about it for my first kid and the harder I pushed the harder she pushed back.

Our constant grade battles ended her sophomore year. I figured what I was doing, wasn’t working, so I decided to take a more hands-off approach. She took complete control over her selections, grades and consequences. I only intervened if things got really bad. Unfortunately, that’s where school and peer pressure took over and she kept taking more and more difficult classes that she wasn’t ready for. While she maintained a solid GPA, I think she struggled and felt unbelievable high levels of stress that was completely unnecessary.

I don’t disagree with the fact that AP classes are great for the under-challenged brilliant mind, however I do think they are over-rated. What I don’t like:

Teaching to the test –  Because there is so much riding on these tests, very little creativity is introduced and they are so highly structured that they could probably be taught by robots.

College credit is oversold – You can occasionally get college credit when you get a certain score on your AP test at the end of the year. It may open up your schedule, but VERY rarely will it take semesters off your graduation date.

Stress – I’ve seen some complete emotional breakdowns at the hand of AP classes. Who wants their entire high school career spent in turmoil?

Money – yes, just like everything else, I believe AP tests are still around because they are a money maker. You have to pay to take the AP exams  – many will argue that the exam is cheaper than taking that class in college. True, but your student tends to just fill their open college time slot with more electives instead of saving you any money by graduating early.

Everybody has them – AP classes were the elite level classes. Although they are still incredibly difficult, they don’t necessarily give you a big leg up when it comes to college admission. They are actually quite common now.

I’m sure I’m in the minority, but when my child comes home with their course selection and they don’t have any AP’s, I’m totally fine. Of course that would never happen at our high school because they’re always pushing to be the best (which isn’t always terrible), but I feel good about the fact that I’m not the one beating down the counselors door demanding more. My advice would be, let your child be the ultimate decision maker. Obviously be there to help guide and point out consequences (for both ends of the spectrum), but they’re closer to the big bad world than we think. If they can’t make this decision for themselves, how are they going to make the more complex ones?


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