Have you heard the debate about AP tests? Or perhaps you have tooled with the idea of having your child take an AP test or two, but should they? What is a mom to do? That was the debate I had with myself during my ds’ 9th grade year. I also need to share upfront that:
First, AP courses and tests are not for every student.
Second, a student can get into college without an AP course or test score on their transcript.
Third, AP courses and tests are not to be taken lightly.
Fourth, an easy AP course for one student but be an outrageously difficult course or test for another student.
Fifth, there are others I should mention but that isn’t the point of this post.
As a mom to a bright student who demanded challenging science classes, who had worked from high school science textbooks in 7th, 8th and 9th grade, and had a mom who really could no longer keep up with the kid’s every-expanding questions (& I have a few engineering degrees too) I searched for an alternative.
AP Courses were the answer to my prayers — or were they? The first year I enrolled DS in one AP Biology class. It went well. He loved the class and while it consumed way too much time it was worth it in my mind. DS lived and breathed biology, enjoyed having a knowledgeable teacher and the teacher sparked an intense interest in the subject. The next two years DS took a few more AP classes and we attempted to prepare for a few AP tests on our own.
And then I read the AP test score debates. Or rather stumbled into them. The argument was that a student interested in science should not take AP science courses or tests but should leave these courses for their college years. After all, the student will most likely need to retake the course once at college. What a waste of time it would be for the student to take AP science courses and tests when the subject would need to be repeated at college. Instead the science-loving student should take History, English, Art, Music, and Gov’t AP courses which will surely count toward the student’s college breadth (humanity, social science and history courses) requirements.
This made so much sense to me however when I read the argument my student was in the fall term of his senior year so it was a tad bit late for me to make any changes. What was done, was done. We would have to live with dear-ol-mom’s errors. But then I thought about the high-interest my student had in his AP Science classes and the low-interest he had for the AP humanity classes I pushed him into. It would have been quite hard on him to not have had his AP science classes to turn to to help him relax and enjoy his school day after working for several hours on his AP humanity classes. His high school years would have been quite hard. I had also enrolled him into the AP science classes for a second reason: I wanted to demonstrate to prospective colleges that this science-loving kid was ready for college-level science. Oh, and a third reason: I wanted outside grades and test scores to back-up my mommy-grade transcript.
There, I had three nice reasons in my mind to justify to me that it was OK that DS had all these AP science and math courses and tests. He had AP Bio, Chem, Physics C, Statistics, Calc BC, and Comp Sci. I convinced myself that it was OK that DS in Chemical Engineering would need to retake Chemistry, Physics and Comp Sci. He had not taken the courses and tests for the credit as much as to educate himself on the material.
What a unique idea! Take a course to learn the material because you are interested in the subject. Take the test to demonstrate to traditional educators that you really do know something about the subject based on their scale. The courses and tests had enriched his life even if it did not reduce his college course load. (We also have no idea how all these science and math AP test scores figured into DS college scholarship offers. That is a huge unknown!)
Then in the middle of his first semester DS changed his major. Suddenly the Chemistry and Biology and Physics test scores would count toward credit and in the process permit DS to add additional mathematics and physics classes. And the two AP English tests that DS forced himself to work on for hours and hours and hours even though he had no interest in the subject, earned him elective credits only. He still must take 3 English classes.
And here’s a final reason for your science student to take AP courses and tests in an area that interests him/her: because you never know what path your young student will follow in the future. We don’t have a crystal ball that will tell us which path our student will take, or a crystal ball that will tell us which college he’ll attend or IF that college will alter their AP credit policy. The AP courses and tests taught DS a lot and that is what is important to us. YMMV.
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