Graphic by Ethan Slager
Recently, there have been many conflicting ideas about the necessity of Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Georgetown Day, Sidwell Friends, and six other private schools in or near the DC area have gotten rid of them (or vowed to do so by 2022). If Wilson were to follow in the footsteps of those eight schools, it would be a fiasco and deny students the opportunity to take rigorous classes and compete with the best scholars.
Many students from Wilson and other private schools apply to the same colleges where their applications are reviewed for grades, test scores, and extracurriculars. With the removal of APs and elimination of a common benchmark, the schools are no longer comparable. “When Admissions representatives are looking at the student’s transcripts they are looking for rigor… AP courses add that rigor which colleges are looking for,” explained Patrice Arrington, Wilson’s Director of College and Career Services.
At Wilson, AP classes provide challenging coursework that ensures a solid education. If a Wilson student were to earn a 5 on an exam, it would tell universities they are prepared for college-level coursework. Beyond that, AP guarantees classes are held to an outside standard. It attracts strong teachers and dedicated students, which guarantees a challenging classroom environment. In public schools, it’s vital to create these academic bubbles, whereas in private schools rigorous learning spaces are the norm.
Wilson would not be able to create challenging classes without the AP designation. The curriculum acts as an external force—overseeing all other subjects and checking them to make sure they adhere to the standard correctly. In on-level classes, the academic challenge is lower. Wilson needs APs to create demanding settings where all students are eager to try.
Private schools are able to completely eliminate the AP curriculum from their schools because of their recognizable school names. Colleges can be certain the courses they provide are challenging. Eliminating this common standard means private school students don’t have to compete with public school kids on the same criteria—admissions officials can assume they are the best. The name Woodrow Wilson doesn’t have the same prestige as Sidwell Friends, asserting the need for AP.
In an op-ed written by the eight principals of the private schools that removed the AP curriculum, one of their main points is that AP is becoming less and less meaningful, since so many students across the country take AP classes.
However, admissions officers from over 13 different colleges and universities contacted by The Washington Post reject that. The admissions officers state that AP classes still have importance—they are a significant measure used when evaluating students in the college application process.
The eight principals claimed that AP courses focus on teaching facts rather than analysis, which looks much different from a college class.
But the experience of Wilson students shows that students are being exposed to challenging work. Bryanna Portillo, a Wilson junior taking three AP courses, describes the rigor of her course load, “It’s a lot more work. We do a lot of analysis and evaluating, and in English, you’re going to have to do a lot of analysis papers. It definitely is more thinking, it challenges you a lot.”
Wilson needs APs to give its students an equal shot at taking challenging classes, and to prove themselves to colleges who may not have a previous knowledge of Wilson’s curriculum. Students should be compared based on their knowledge and qualifications, rather than competing for whose parents can afford to enroll in the most well-regarded school. •