The struggle is indeed real for many students when it comes time to decide whether to take an Advanced Placement (AP), honors, or on-level class. Each year all students have to make the choice of enrolling for classes for the upcoming school year. Here at Rock Bridge students have access to more than 30 AP and honors classes, making this decision require more in-depth review.
Even after the 2,000 plus students sign up for the classes they want to take, some find that they aren’t challenged enough by their class’s curriculum. Freshman Will Cover is one of thousands of students who underwent this experience.
Cover takes honors classes and enjoys the aspect that honors has a more accelerated pace and gives students like him more difficult options. However, Cover said he sometimes finds honors classes boring, or almost lacking a challenging curriculum.
“I wish that honors classes were more difficult, though,” Cover said “Because with many classes, honors is the furthest option offered, and it can be easy sometimes.”
Cover said he plans to take an AP class next year. For him an AP class would provide “a harder class to learn more and push yourself” and give him an experience of what a college class could look like.
For Extended Educational Experiences (EEE) students such as senior Stephanie Zhang, taking AP classes help time management. While Zhang primarily took an AP class for AP credit, along the way she learned that AP classes offer much more.
“In AP classes it’s great because there are other like-minded kids like you, so everyone wants to challenge themselves,” Zhang said. “When you have kids who are like-minded with you, it helps make your learning environment more productive and fun.”
Math teacher Travis Martin, who teaches Algebra 2 honors on top of AP Calculus AB has taught at Rock Bridge for 11 years. During that time, he understands why students choose to take honors or AP classes.
Martin noticed that students taking his honors and AP classes have a faster learning process and allows them to learn more content throughout the year, while those who take on-level classes enjoy and perform better in a slightly slower learning pace.
“In math our honors classes tend to cover roughly four units more than the on-level sections over the course of the year,” Martin said. “On-level classes are challenging enough for most students, but some students need more of a challenge, which is where our honors sections come in.”
However while honors and AP classes offer benefits to challenge-driven students, some students decide to drop out of their honors or AP class because of other reasons besides the curriculum. For sophomore Preston Johnson, the choice of dropping AP World came down to his personal life activities outside of school.
“With sports and piano outside of school, I barely had any free time,” Johnson said. “The work was hard, but I really enjoyed the class, and it was hard to drop because I liked the teachers and their ways of teaching.”
Johnson was unaware that enrolling in the class would force him to cut out a chunk of his social life just to keep up with the workload. Before enrolling in the class Johnson, a very social and free spirited student according to his friends, hung out with his friends once a week while also juggling soccer practice, piano and schoolwork. But due to nightly homework, visiting once a week turned to visiting once every two weeks.
“Honestly, dropping was a really hard decision,” Johnson said “because I knew I wasn’t going to be challenged in regular world.” While Johnson does no longer have the same challenge he’s grateful to spend more time on the field and at home.
Martin said honors and AP classes are vital to the students with a faster learning pace, all students have their own pace at which they learn. He agrees with Johnson that honors and AP classes match with kids who have the time and motivation to challenge themselves, but don’t match with others who might lack the time investment.
“While honors and AP classes are great for students who have the motivation, some students don’t have the time to invest to their AP or honors classes outside of school due to their outside schedule.” Martin said. “But that’s okay, because each student still has the option to take an on-level class which will still help them learn new material.”
By: Ryan Choe and Catherine Polo