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  • Conner Emery

What AP Courses Have to Offer

Updated: Mar 3


  • STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) refers to the grouping of educational subjects on account of their interdisciplinary importance in highly specialized fields, such as biomedical engineering

  • For the purposes of this article, the following AP courses belong to the STEM AP subgroup of the AP courses offered by the College Board:

  • AP Biology

  • AP Calculus AB

  • AP Calculus BC

  • AP Chemistry

  • AP Computer Science

  • AP Environmental Science

  • AP Physics 1

  • AP Statistics

  • The data and graphics featured in this article reflect only the eighteen courses offered continuously 2018-2022 at CVCHS in order to set a time frame for the purposes of calculation and comparison

Incorporating AP courses into class offerings is popular practice, and STEM-oriented education is increasingly prominent. However, the College Board predominantly offers AP courses in the arts and humanities subjects, to an extent reflected in the most popular courses by testing at CVCHS. Of the nine most popular AP courses by projected passed at CVCHS, only AP Calculus AB and AP Biology deviate from the dominance of social sciences.

In the past five years, CVCHS has expanded its AP courses offered to include AP Computer Science Principles and AP Human Geography. Kathleen Coakley, the director of curriculum and instruction, asserted that “we’re not supporting student success if we don’t pursue STEM-oriented curriculum,” but its inclusion must be in “a balanced education.”

Coakley explained that the school is “not so much” concerned with expanding the AP curriculum to be more STEM-oriented, but rather “working on the quality of the program.” That being said, the College Board is offering little opportunity to do the former, recently piloting only one STEM-oriented course, AP Precalculus. Altogether, the “STEM AP” subgroup at CVCHS is rather robust, offering eight of the twelve current courses continuously 2018-2022 and featuring three in the nine highest mean pass rates.

Also of note, CVCHS students testing in AP Calculus AB exceeded the global mean pass rate by 6.74% according to 2018-2022 data. CVCHS students in AP Computer Science and AP Chemistry passed within 10% of the global mean pass rate as well.

Nikki Ryan, the AP Calculus (AB and BC) teacher for over five years, explained that “homework may matter little to not at all but it is essential practice in preparing for exams. I hope to stress the importance of working with peers and utilizing office hours appropriately. Work together, make mistakes, and keep going.”

AP courses, while most evidently able to provide students with college credit, are also valuable in the experience they can afford in managing a challenging classroom and its content, especially in regard to STEM curriculum. Ben Friedman, the AP Physics 1 teacher, explained that he hopes “to prepare my students by providing them with the tools, opportunity, and motivation to develop their understanding of physics concepts, physics problem-solving skills, and hands-on lab skills.”

Amanda Wilson, the AP Chemistry teacher, concurred,”I think early exposure to such rigorous content helps those students know what they are getting into and develop good study skills, as well as the foundational knowledge to succeed in STEM.”

Nonetheless, the CVCHS 2023-2024 student AP agreement states that “the objective of an AP course is to prepare me for an end-of-course AP exam, which gives me the opportunity to earn college credit upon passing.” The purpose of the agreement is to secure the interest of prospective AP students to certain standards, and this tenet is the least daunting for many students, who seek out AP courses to explore their interests and attain college credit in the process.

“My first year teaching AP Computer Science, I had a student who was thankful for the class because they did not enjoy computer science and they were previously going to apply to college as a computer science major,” recalled Robert Bergman, the AP Computer Science teacher, “They were very glad to learn ahead of time that they wanted to take a different direction.”

Patrick Gaffney, the director of special education and counseling, said that “all kids should be able to experience college-level rigor,” and if there is student interest, “schools have an obligation to offer AP courses. (Smaller high schools, such as certain rural schools, may not have the resources to offer AP courses, but will if possible.)"

Shaun Guest, the AP Biology teacher, said “my AP Physics teacher was the most influential” in the development of my teaching model, because of “the rigor of work and the hands-on experience.”

Course selection season is coming to a close, and many CVCHS students are hoping to enroll in AP courses. The deadline for submitting the 2023-2024 AP Agreement closed February 24, and the future of CVCHS AP curriculum (STEM included) awaits in the fall.

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