APs bear even more changes

Josiah Patterson

Contributing writer

(December 17 2015)

Of the many changes this year at Nantucket High School, one was an increase in the variety of offered Advanced Placement courses. Along with the typical AP Language and Composition, AP Literature, AP US History, AP Government, AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP Physics, AP Environmental, AP Statistics, and AP Calculus, a new variety of APs were added to include courses such as AP Seminar, AP Studio Art, and AP Spanish. This large variety of classes is reaching out to many different students with varying interests and is allowing them to challenge themselves and get a feel for the rigor and workload of college courses. The program can be altered to fit the needs of the school, and more courses can be added in years to come.

With all of the new changes this year, problems also have arisen. The issues revolve around scheduling, time, and the Saturday sessions. The Saturday sessions, introduced last year as part of a Massachusetts Math Science Initiative (MMSI) grant, provide AP classes with a four hour block three Saturdays a year. The grant has experts in the given class come down to Nantucket to give an intensive prep session on the material and a look at the May exam set up. AP Biology teacher Heather MacDonald a class of 13 students, which nearly doubled from last year’s class, expressed her concerns in an interview.

“I think that APs need more time. We need double blocks for labs which really focus on getting the content across and apply the material to a real situation.”

Along with more time for labs, MacDonald expressed disappointment with the Saturday sessions stating that, “we aren’t getting what we were promised. They were supposed to bring down equipment to perform activities we couldn’t do, but so far the majority has only been math review.” Other teachers express MacDonald’s concerns. New AP Environmental teacher Ashley Erisman, with a class of 14, expressed overall approval with the program but stated that, “for such a fast-paced class, having it at the end of the day during athletics is an issue. Students are constantly being taken away from my class, and not only is it a disturbance but the students are missing out on valuable material and time to gain an extra understanding on the topics.”

On the Saturday sessions, Erisman said, “the four hours of intense learning time with another professional’s perspective was invaluable, and although it was challenging being my first time, I look forward to our further sessions.”

The English and math departments strongly echoed this sentiment. AP Language and Composition teacher Stacey Edzwald, with a total of 30 students between two sections, said that, “for AP Lang there is more flexibility due to the fact that the class focus more on skills rather than content. The Saturday sessions allow us access to experienced and dynamic teachers, and along with the mock exam in January my students are well prepared for the May exam.”

Edzwald also echoed MacDonald’s sentiments saying, “the first year of the sessions was a little disorganized, and the travel factor played a huge roll, taking away from the experience and students focus. Having them all on Nantucket is much more beneficial.”

AP Literature teacher Anne Phaneuf, with a large group of 20 students, was pleased as well. “AP Lit is heavy in reading and the expectations to know the reading are high. These expectations and the students efforts are ultimately what allows them to be prepared for the exam. The kids do well seeing as the exam is skill-based, and the rich literature we focus on throughout the year provides them with what they need to succeed.”

Phaneuf also commented on how the Saturday sessions are valuable, but athletic interference affects both the sessions and takes students away from the classroom where they need to be immersed in the content.

AP Spanish teacher, Kate Hickson, with a class of ten students shared some insights regarding the new program. “APs are great and extremely helpful for students. Although we haven’t had our first Saturday session as of yet, the idea of having professionals so familiar with the test come down to help the students is so great, and the sessions should really help the students with speaking parts and to get a feel of what will be on the test.”

Hickson also shared that, “teaching ultimately takes over your life, and you worry about time and having enough of it to teach the kids and do right by them. You want them to succeed because ultimately conveying the knowledge across is what’s important.”

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