Since the 2007-08 school year, the number of students enrolled in Advanced Placement classes has nearly doubled, going from 201 to 370, and the numbers continue to increase bringing along both positive and negative side-effects, AP teachers say.
Prior to 2008-09, AP enrollment was minimal. AP Language and Composition was one of the AP classes with the fewest number of kids enrolled. When Mike Palshaw first taught the class in 2009-10, he had one section with 10 students, and Barbara Steinberg had one section with 18 students.
“Obviously we both had really small classes and mine was particularly small,” Palshaw says. “So there were 28 kids in the school taking APLAC.”
With the pressure to take more AP classes, APLAC’s enrollment has increased dramatically.
“Next year there are four sections slated for Whitney Grummon to teach and a total of about 90 students,” Palshaw says. “We’ve basically tripled the number of juniors who are taking the course in a span of four years.”
All history classes at the sophomore, junior and senior level have all also felt the impact of students’ high demand for taking AP courses.
“[AP Government and Politics] saw a 50 percent increase two years ago, from 80 to 120,” teacher Bill Schrier says. “Back then, classes were in the high twenties in terms of students, and last year they hit 30 or more in each class.”
Schrier has seen how large class sizes take a toll on his ability to teach the way he would prefer. In class, he conducts weekly seminars during the block period, and he says a classroom of 30 plus students makes the task harder to do.
“With 35 students, classroom management becomes more of an issue and there is little flexibility in what you can do in terms of varied instructional techniques,” Schrier says. “I also can’t give much personal attention with those kinds of numbers.”
AP World History teacher Brent Silva can definitely tell which students taking AP World might be a better fit for College Prep World History.
“It makes it tougher in the sense that you have a lot of solid kids who could be in college prep that you don’t have at your disposal,” Silva says. “It changes the class dynamics, so it’s different with the things you can do in class.”
Yet numbers in AP classes continue to rise.
“I think that it’s well worth the time and energy,” Grummon says. “I’m really happy that we’re pushing kids to make that big leap.”
And having high AP enrollment does have advantages in terms of how it reflects on the school.
“As part of the methodology for ranking the top 1,000 schools, AP enrollment is pretty important,” counselor Darren Johnston says. “In The Washington Post’s rankings we were 400, and now we are 220.”
Within the past three years, Carmel High has jumped more than 200 places in the rankings among top schools in the country, possibly due to the dramatic increase of AP enrollment.
“It makes our seniors look more competitive for four-year colleges,” Johnston says. “It shows that our students are taking more rigorous classes.”