A new budget proposal by the district that would cut Advanced Placement prep periods has angered many teachers.
Teachers are questioning the district’s proposal to impact the AP teaching schedule as a cost-cutting measure. If the proposal were to make it into the contract, the district would save $1.5 million. If this period were to be taken away from AP teachers, they would have to teach a fifth class instead of preparing for their AP class, helping individual students improve their writing, and grading work. Teachers who have taken on the workload of an AP class would have less time to effectively teach the curriculum, according to English teacher and department head Bryan Ritter.
The new proposal is the result of the district being forced to cut back. “The SFUSD is asking the teachers union, whose members salary and benefits comprise 75 percent of all expenses, to help make $30 million in reductions over the next two years,” executive director of public outreach and communications for SFUSD Gentle Blythe said. “We have presented a list of possible deficit reduction measures, eliminating the extra prep for AP teachers and paying them a $1,000 stipend is among the proposals.”
The district plans to eliminate prep periods without hurting the AP program. “We’re proposing that teachers of AP classes teach a five period day with one prep period like all other high school teachers,” Blythe said. “We’re the only district in the country as far as we know that gives AP teachers an additional prep period. Many districts have robust AP programs with no shortage of teachers interested in teaching AP even though they do not receive an extra prep to do so. The district will make sure that there are teachers at Lowell who will teach AP classes.”
According to Blythe, “this proposal would not reduce the number of AP classes offered to students and could in fact increase the number of classes a school can offer because teachers who teach AP would be teaching a five period day instead of a four period day.” However, many AP teachers have expressed that the prep period is an essential part of teaching an AP, since these college-level courses often require more work to teach than a regular class. “If AP prep periods were taken away, I would not want to teach an AP,” Ritter said. “I would not be able to teach it effectively.”
Educators say that if the district votes to eliminate the prep period, it will not only hurt teachers, but could detract from the educational experience of the students. “I would not teach the AP course if the proposal were to pass,” physics teacher Richard Shapiro said. “As a veteran teacher, I could do a reasonable job, but I couldn’t do an extraordinary job. I would also not want to support the district’s plan to undermine the best thing they’ve done academically at a high school level.”
One prep period for a teacher counts as one class, and one prep period is allotted for every 25 AP tests given. The school is given the prep periods to use as they see fit. At Lowell, each AP teacher gets one extra prep period, no matter how many AP classes they teach. In the case of a teacher having multiple AP classes, the AP teacher’s second earned prep goes to the school and is used for additional teaching periods, allowing the school to fund additional positions, according to Ritter.
The elimination of the prep period could enormous impact many Lowell students. AP classes play a role in most students’ schedules, and if this proposal by the SFUSD were to pass, it could mean both larger class sizes — because there would be less teaching time allotted to the school — and less AP classes offered, according to Ritter.
The school’s additional course offerings and lower class size benefit the students. Last year the allotment of prep periods for AP tests generated approximately 30 teaching positions, according to the school’s AP test coordinator Steve Granucci in an interview by The Lowell journalist Zoe Kaiser.
A press conference was held by the teachers’ union on May 7 at Lowell to voice opinions and concerns about the district’s proposal to cut AP prep periods. UESF political director Ken Tray organized the event and alerted news organizations to spread awareness about the severity of the issue. At the conference, several AP teachers lined up and spoke. “We're not in it for the money,” Shapiro stated in an interview with KGO News. “To increase our salary by $1,000 and increase our workload by 20 percent is insulting.”
The AP program is demanding; teachers have to develop, submit and follow specific syllabi and the strong majority has had professional development. “The AP’s are a program of real academic excellence,” Shapiro said. “As soon as they cut the prep period, they will lose teachers and students.”