Pressure on AP course teachers is often self-imposed, not mandated


Patrick Smalley

It’s mid April and Mr. Raymund Krause’s (Social Studies) Advanced Placement Psychology class already finished the textbook, even with around a month left before the exam. If this sounds strange to some, it’s because the class has already transitioned to studying for the AP test full time.

Many teachers rush to finish their core content early to start using class time to study for their respective AP tests, if they finish covering the content at all.

“The test date doesn’t change, so we try and finish our content around spring break so that we’ll have some class periods to devote to simply reviewing for the test,” Mr. Richard Sharp (Social Studies) said.

“I think the reason that many AP courses are run like this is because a lot of teachers are trying to get their kids to cram for the exam and get the highest scores possible for their job security,” Catherine Ho (10, MST) said. Many students like Ho naturally assume that teachers do this due to administrative pressure to produce high AP scores, but teachers and administrators tell a different story.

“We don’t encourage or pressure the teachers to do all that work for AP classes,” Mr. Matt Kingsley (Administration) said. “If kids aren’t scoring well on the AP test we look at that, but we don’t hold it over the teachers.”

Instead, teachers suggest that they try to maximize how their kids do on the exam for reasons that fall into two primary categories: social and professional.

“AP pass rates are a lot like ACT scores for teachers,” Krause said, who teaches AP Human Geography, AP Psychology, and AP U.S. History. “It provides bragging rights in a way—we compare and we boast, and I think competition can help offer drive for us to push higher scores.”

Other teachers agree that the social aspect of their students’ scores play a role in how classes are structured.

“Pass rates are definitely a major point of pride,” Sharp said. “That tells me as a teacher I’m reaching a significant number of my students and helping them pass the exam.”

Teachers aren’t offered anything for higher pass rates in Kentucky, unlike Florida which gives teachers an additional stipend for each student who passes an AP exam; meaning that teachers must instead motivate themselves with things like bragging rights.

AP averages offer teachers a metric to gauge their own progress and aptitude, especially when there is little consensus about how to best measure individual teacher performance.

“Getting good test scores is a mark of a good teacher because if the test scores are good, that means the teacher is able to get their kids ready for the College Board’s standards,” Ms. Alesia Williams (English) said. “I personally look at my own individual tests and see those as a good measure of how well I’m doing.”

But not all teachers agree that AP test scores are a great way to prove a teacher’s worth.

“I think there should be other metrics available,” Sharp said. “It is unfortunate that this is becoming one of the most accepted ways of measuring a teacher’s abilities in the classroom.”