AP classes and their adaptations this year at FHS

AP classes and their adaptations this year at FHS

Elizabeth Atchley, Writer/Social Media

This past spring, AP exams were a hot topic due to adjustments made for testing during COVID-19. At the center of it all was the College board, the organization responsible for these alterations. They received more backlash than ever from students, teachers, and parents after errors and difficulties occurred during online AP exams. Although exam season is now over, AP classes are in full swing this fall, whether the classes are online, in person, or a little bit of both. However, with COVID-19 also happening, how are these classes adapting to new learning environments, while still teaching kids at the AP level?

During these unprecedented times, AP teachers have had to adapt to the constant uncertainty of the new school year. At FHS, students’ schedules vary from 4 days of in-person instruction and one day virtual, to 2 days of in-person and 3 days virtual, to full virtual instruction at-home. This creates an inconsistent environment within teachers’ classrooms. Teachers are required to keep tabs on how many days a week each of their students go, if a student should be physically in class that day, and many other issues regarding attendance. This inconsistency also prohibits classroom interactions between peers. When AP Environmental Science teacher Clay Morton was asked how his teaching methods have changed due to COVID-19, he responded that he has “virtual and hybrid and in-class students, so the class is not nearly as interactive as it used to be.”

When asked the same question, AP Government and AP Human Geography teacher Amber Pinter responded with a similar answer, that she has done less group work, and that “discussion has been affected negatively, because kids aren’t interacting with each other or with me as much.” Clearly, the lack of connection and communication in the classroom has been one of the biggest problems that teachers are facing this year, taking a toll on how students are learning and comprehending more advanced lessons and material.

Students have also been introduced to new changes in AP classes. With AP classwork and instruction being delivered through College board or Google Classroom, there is little written work or handouts in the classroom. Luke Welcher, an FHS junior, is taking five AP classes this year. When asked how AP class content has changed this year, he said that the content “has switched to being almost completely online compatible, we do most things on the Chromebooks and print off any assignment we want to do by hand.” This could negatively affect many students: those who don’t have access to a printer, those without internet access at home, and even students who prefer simple paper and pencil over a computer.

In addition, students are seriously lacking the necessary peer in-person interaction and discussion. FHS junior Emma Gardner is in two AP classes this year. When she was asked what the biggest challenge is while taking AP classes in this environment, she responded that “there is a lot more lecturing rather than having interactive lessons. This has been challenging because it can be hard at times to comprehend the content with not being able to participate in an interactive or group lesson to form an easier understanding.” Students in accelerated classes typically have the ability to discuss and bounce ideas off of each other, and the lack of this has weakened the classroom dynamics. Without having regular group interactions and the opportunity to discuss opinions and perspectives, students are left to their own devices to comprehend the difficult course material.

Advanced Placement classes are now being taught in unprecedented ways, and students and teachers are struggling with these adjustments. The coronavirus has changed the entire learning process and the environment in schools everywhere, and in addition to having next-level material, AP classes have next level obstacles to overcome this school year.

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