HUNT COLUMN: AP does not stand for all pupils

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, February 1, 2023

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By Cathy Hunt

Troup Co. Board of  Education

Once upon a waning summer vacation, as I strolled the aisles of Kroger, a lady about my age stopped me and correctly identified me as her son’s senior English teacher for the coming year. She wanted to talk to me about one of his summer reading assignments, a novel by a recognized American master. She had skimmed through the book and noticed that it contained several instances of coarse language, and she din’t understand why I would direct my students to read such a book.

I explained that the dialogue in question came from characters who were tough, rootless ranch hands and that it was a realistic depiction of their conversations, by an author who had lived the life. I went on to describe the merits of the book, how it was not too difficult for undirected summer reading and how it always led to excellent first-week discussions of theme, setting, foreshadowing, characterization, etc. But the protests continued while I could sense the ice cream in my buggy melting.

Finally, I said, “You do realize that this senior English class is an AP class, and that it’s an elective, right? If you’d like, I can have your son moved to a regular English class.” She said she’d think about it, and then moved on. The young man stayed in AP English and I didn’t hear any more from his mom.

The College Board has developed Advanced Placement courses for decades now. Currently, there are nearly 40 offerings in English, math, social studies, science, art, world languages, computer science, research, and international culture. They are designed for students who want to be challenged, be better prepared for college, and be able to earn college credits while still in high school. The classes are carefully designed, although teachers are given leeway to make choices within certain parameters, and instructors have to undergo rigorous initial training and updates. 

While I taught AP English (for more than 25 years), I did choose titles (from the College Board’s suggestions, books and authors that are taught in college classes), which I wouldn’t select for my regular classes. The students understood that their reading load, the style and subject matter, would require more time and more maturity than I would expect from other students. It was not my job to indoctrinate them on any social or religious issues (no teacher should do that), but to broaden their horizons, develop their writing and critical thinking skills, and provide a safe, non-judgmental space where difficult topics could be explored.

The Troup County School System currently offers 14 different AP courses across the three high schools. A total of 831 students sit in 1,279 AP seats (many students take more than one AP class each year). Not every course is offered at every high school; there has to be enough interest in a school for the course to “make.” We have often made provisions for a student to attend a class at another high school if it is not offered at his home school. Students who have demonstrated exceptional ability in an area may enroll in AP if it is their and their parents’ wish.

Florida’s governor has made recent headlines by decreeing that the College Board’s new African American Studies AP course shall not be taught in the state. He shouldn’t be able to make that decision. 

Let local school systems decide if there is an interest in that course and if they want to provide it. 

No student will be forced to take it; that’s not how AP works. And can’t we all agree that if more students elect to work harder, we should encourage them?