As a quiet, usually intellectual, rather driven student, I struggled throughout much of elementary school - not because the classwork was difficult, but because it was too easy. Primary students should not have loads of homework – they should have very little, really – but they shouldn’t be bored in class, either. And I was. Even in the more elevated classes for my grade level, I aced my spelling tests, read books under the desk while my teachers were explaining things I already understood, and hated every second of it. I was also frustrated by many of my peers’ lack of desire to put even an ounce of effort in. I wasn’t obsessed with school, but if I had to sit in class then I wanted to glean something from it. Then, in fifth grade, I got my first taste of “advanced” education – the upper quartile of my grade was allowed to participate in upper-level math and science classes, beyond even the higher math class for the grade. The world seemed to open up: I was with motivated, intelligent, students, in a course that challenged me, taught by teachers that seemed to really care. Drawing a parallel between this and AP courses may seem far-fetched in the sense that AP courses are not open to only those who achieve a grade in the top 25% of the class, but if you examine the students in Advanced Placement courses you will find that they often tend to fit that category. From this elementary school I went on to a small charter school for two years. The style of teaching was not comparable to that of a typical public school, but again the environment was, for the most part, composed of driven students, and I blossomed there. But my dad lost his job during my seventh grade and I was relocated to Oklahoma and plunged into my last year of middle school in an enormous SCHOOL??, different from anything I’d ever experienced after living in a town of 7,000 for ten years. Again I was faced with an issue I hadn’t had to combat since fourth grade – a bunch of people who didn’t care. “Advanced” classes assuaged the problem some, and Pre-AP math gave a taste of what AP would bring, but it wasn’t quite the same. I spent the year meeting new people and growing emotionally, so classes took a bit of a backseat, and then the first year of high school was another transition. But when I was faced with my first real AP class in sophomore year, I realised that I could again be surrounded by a group of individuals who really wanted to get all they could out of their education.
No, Advanced Placement classes are not some kind of celestial world in which everyone gets As and always remembers to do homework. AP kids procrastinate as much as, if not more than, “regular” students, get bad grades, and complain about their workload. But the difference is that (most of them) want to be where they are. They have a vague idea of what they’re going after, have at least an outline of how to achieve it, and are aware of whatever difficulties AP will present. This makes for a more scholarly, less distracting, and more enjoyable environment in which students are given a measure of freedom and respect, and also provides somewhat of a segue into college courses.
And college is another indisputable reason for AP courses – it’s why they exist, really. Many colleges provide credits to those who pass the AP tests, allowing students to get credits for free on which they would have to spend (ridiculous) amounts of money in university. Although colleges are starting to evaluate