Many Berkeley High School students have had a teacher who begins the year by stating that they don’t like the Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum and therefore won’t be teaching it. This presents problems for students who rely on in-person instruction to help prepare them for the AP exam and understand the college-level curriculum. Students must either self-prepare for the exam or skip it altogether, due to feeling ill-prepared for the test. This leads to inequality of preparation and exam access. AP teachers have a responsibility to follow the curriculum provided by the College Board because it ensures that all students are taught the same material, giving them equal opportunity.
When students sign up to take AP classes, they expect to be taught an accelerated curriculum that is as rigorous as college-level classes. Many students aim to take the AP exams in May, but if the teacher refuses to teach the material, they will have to prepare on their own for the exam. This is problematic, as not all students have the time or resources outside of school to thoroughly teach themselves a college-level course. Therefore, this disproportionately affects students who have less access to outside resources or have other responsibilities outside of school hours.
Ann Sperske, a Academic Choice (AC) history teacher at BHS, said it’s not possible for students to effectively prepare themselves for the AP exams without the proper tools. There are a variety of skills and test-taking tools students develop through AP courses, and therefore it is important that these skills be taught throughout the year. Teachers like Sperske also use AP Classroom to prepare their students for the exam, a resource only available to those enrolled in an official AP class.
Some teachers simply don’t like the AP curriculum, whether it be the content they are provided with or the time constraints they are given to teach the material. They would rather have the flexibility to teach the class the way that works best for them and choose their own content. However, teachers should not entirely disregard the AP curriculum. Instead, students who want to learn the AP material should be given an in-class opportunity to learn the AP content, such as a “flex” Monday period, which is essentially a study hall.
Crystal Rigley, Personal Finance and AP Economics teacher at BHS, said that teaching all of the AP material, especially to seniors going through college applications, was tortuous and negatively affected their mental health. Rigley said she teaches just over half of the AP content, which allows for her to teach more relevant and helpful content. Rigley also provides a flex period on Mondays which students who want to take the AP exam can use to self-study using videos on Google Classroom. This is an efficient alternative for teachers that decided not to teach all of the AP content.
While it is reasonable that teachers would want flexibility in their material, students deserve the opportunity to learn the material they signed up for and have equal access to the AP exams. It isn’t fair for teachers to eliminate that option for students who might be seeking college credits or even just looking to learn from the class they selected. Teachers have a responsibility to give their students the knowledge they need to succeed, and in the case of AP classes, that looks like following the AP curriculum.