Finals or AP Exams? How About Neither?

By: Rebeccah Fleischmann

“I know you all are tired, but we have to keep plugging along. We have a month until AP Exams; you have to push through.” 

Recently, one of my teachers spoke these words to my fellow seniors and me in an attempt to wake us up from our second-semester daze and get us to work harder in class. I completely understand my teacher’s perspective; they are teaching us strictly for the AP Exam. Every assignment we do and everything we learn is in preparation for the exam. We don’t learn for the sake of learning; we learn to perform well on test day. It’s not a secret that teachers are judged by administrators on their students’ average AP exam scores. Last year, one of my AP teachers bragged about their averages and how our principal called them up to congratulate them when they heard. Conard is compared to other schools on a state level based on the percentage of students who take AP exams and the percentages that score highly. Thus, AP Exams are the core component of a WHPS education. Since they are the most challenging curriculum that is offered, students aiming for top schools are encouraged to take a large number of them, as many as 10 to 14. 

 

Yet, with the difficulties of going to school during a pandemic, I ponder: where are the three C’s (Care - Connect - Community) that have become the unofficial motto of the administration? I remember last March when teachers were more understanding and compassionate about what we are going through. Now, many of us AP students are slammed with homework and tests on the weekend and Mondays. Why are we forced to struggle through difficult assignments designed to prepare us for exams that we won’t even get credit for at most top institutions? Selective colleges like Brown, Dartmouth, Caltech, Amherst, and Williams do not accept AP credits. In contrast, other top colleges only give credit for 5’s on particular tests, such as AP Calculus BC or AP Physics 2.

 

I know these questions are on many of my peers’ minds. One potential answer came earlier this week from one of my teachers: “they haven’t decided on finals yet, so if you don’t take the AP Exam, you must take the final for that class.” When faced with the option of taking an AP Exam that has no bearing on your grade or a final that may account for 20% of your semester grade, the obvious choice is to take the AP Exam. Yet, for second-semester seniors with a B or better in the class, wouldn’t it make more sense to have the option to opt-out of finals and AP exams altogether?