Dimond AP Program Follows National Trend

Our society has a tendency to think that the upcoming generation will not end up as strong or mature as the one preceding it. Although this idea is strongly perpetuated, certain behaviours speak contrary to it.

According to the College Board’s Annual AP Program Participation Reports, the number of students taking AP exams and number of AP exams taken has increased every year since AP started in 1955. While this by no means indicates that youth get smarter by the year or that more students are college ready, those are safe assumptions.

Dimond follows the national trend. Since 2014, the number of AP tests taken has increased from 452 to 542 in 2017, and it appears that the number will continue going up.

Although the number of tests taken trends upward, the number of students in certain classes has severely diminished. This can mean only that there is a migration of students to and from certain AP courses.

AP Comparative Government, Literature and Composition, Music Theory, Art History and European History are all classes that are not consistently offered or have seen a significant decrease in enrollment numbers.

One of these things is not like the others. Primarily, these classes are focused on very specific subjects and are for those who have room in their schedule and have a passion for the course material.

AP Literature is the only course listed that fulfills a graduation requirement and is not considered an elective class. So why is there such low enrollment?

Susan Derrera, the AP Literature teacher, said, “For quite some time there were three full sections. Over time we’ve increased the number of offerings that we have, and so students self select those, and in the past their weren’t that many to choose from. Now that we have more science offerings with an engineering focus, there are a lot of students that head for those classes.”

AP Language and Composition teacher Anne Morris said, “I think there is a lot of time commitment, reading wise, in Lit that prevent students from trying to [take the course].”

When looking at AP Chemistry, Calculus AB, Calculus BC and Language and Composition, all see constant or growing numbers in enrollment.

These all fulfill graduation requirements and still focus somewhat on the big picture, and all but AP Language and Composition are high level STEM courses.

Robert Hartley, Dimond’s AP coordinator, provided some statistics on certain AP trends.  There is a noticeable difference in STEM numbers. Last year, Calculus AB number rose more than normal, AP Chemistry enrollment doubled and Calculus BC more than doubled, making it the largest BC class in the past 12 years.

The black sheep of the group, AP Language, is taken by a large number of juniors because it is logical for college-bound students to do so.

Morris said, “Everybody when they go to college is going to have to take English 101, so it’s a really obvious choice for students to take it.”

Tyler Jang, senior and prospective valedictorian, will have taken 14 AP tests by the end of the year, more than any current student at Dimond, making him an expert in AP.

Jang said, “ I think rumors have a big impact in what classes people take, and there’s often a false impression because of that. I think that the best way to do it would be A, talking to the teacher; B, just assessing your own abilities. If you have a friend who’s a year older, you can kinda peek over their shoulder and see what they’re doing, which doesn’t tell you a lot, but it gives you a little more perspective.”

The two main causes then for shifts in AP enrollment are rumor and increased STEM interest. Looking at both causes may give an answer for the change.

Senior Danielle Duclos said, “I think the workload in AP Lit is a lot less than Lang.  There’s a lot less writing and the annotations don’t have to very in-depth.”  Based on this, it appears that any rumor of difficulty pertaining to AP Literature is just that.  

Assuming more and more people desire to go into a STEM field, would account for more AP STEM class enrollment, and even if rumor indicates difficulty, this can be counteracted by individual desire to learn the subject matter.

People in STEM generally know they will make a career out of it, making it less possible to take AP hyper-specific arts or social science electives.

The decrease with AP Literature can be reconciled by taking a rumor that the coursework is time consuming, and combining it with the fact that more people know they don’t want to do much with literature in their career.

One can learn from Jang when he said, “Don’t be afraid to take AP classes. Don’t be me, but take a lot.”