The beginning of the semester can be a great time to start anew, but an unexpected schedule change can leave one frustrated.
As any Lowellite knows, taking an Advanced Placement class can put extra stress on an already demanding schedule. This burden is lightened — at least during Arena — by the guarantee to keep the AP teacher one had in the fall, a policy enacted just 5 years ago.
According to the policy “implemented by the administrative council, the policy requires AP English, AP World History, AP European History and AP Biology students to stay with the teacher they had during the fall semester.” Though the policy required an adjustment at the time, students and staff did adjust.
Unfortunately, now students are finding out that it appears the policy is not being adhered to consistently, putting many in a difficult situation. At a Union Building Committee and Administration meeting on Jan. 24, a discussion of student/AP teacher matching also led to a call to analyze the issue further. The Lowell urges the School Site Counsel to plan, clarify to students and administrate a consistent policy establishing specific AP courses deemed appropriate for the policy of year-long teacher-student assignment.
Although yearlong courses are the exception at Lowell, AP courses are particularly appropriate to have the consistency provided by one teacher. At the beginning of a course, teachers review what the agenda will be for the year. In an AP class, this is especially important, because, aside from the overall coordination ensured by the culminating test, often an individual teacher has a unique way of preparing students for the test in May. If one enrolls in an AP class, they expect to continue the course as they started it, with the same teacher and the same plan. “We try very hard to keep kids with their same AP teacher,” social studies department head Alice Kwong-Ballard said. “That way teachers don’t have to spend time at the beginning of the semester orienting them to their teaching system.”
In addition to individual teaching styles, teachers also tend to travel through the course at varying speeds. And if one is given a different teacher, they might be behind or ahead of their new classmates, leaving them to either catch up or repeat the work they have already completed.
It is also common for AP teachers to assign homework over winter break. This is possible because teachers expect the same individuals to be on their spring class list. If a student is placed with another teacher for their AP class, their winter break work becomes worthless, and they might be required to make up the different homework for their new teacher.
Keeping students with their original AP teacher also ensures that the teacher is prepared for the same number of attendees as were assigned in the beginning. While the administration typically switches pupils to different teachers to balance classes, a free-for-all in the spring may do the opposite. AP classes are balanced in August, and it only makes sense to continue that balance and have each student stay with the teacher they initially took. Moving AP students out of their original teachers’ classes is not only inconvenient, it can also prove counter-productive in the larger picture of balanced classes.
The problem chiefly affects the social studies department because it tends to have multiple teachers teaching a certain AP, though a switch does not occur often, according to AP coordinator and counselor Ivan Yee. However, for those affected, like junior Ilya Verzhbinsky, the change can bring unnecessary anxiety. “It’s definitely a difficult transition,” Verzhbinsky said. “I think they should keep kids with the teachers they had before.”
The idea of “locked classes” is commonplace at most schools, and for specific courses it should become a reality here. The policy from 2008 addressed specific courses that would keep students with the same teacher. The administration should update the list of courses covered by this policy to include a wider range of classes in appropriate departments. Most importantly, students should be told what to expect when signing up for an AP course. If a student is not guaranteed to receive the same teacher in the spring semester, it should be explicitly stated.
Arena is already a stressful event. Almost every participant is unsure about what teachers will still be available once they burst through the double doors of the gymnasium. What gives many a sigh of relief is thinking they will not have to worry about their AP classes, and the last thing Lowell students need is extra — and unnecessary — stress.