Follow us:

Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

March 5, 2014 at 1:47 PM

In their own words: High-school students share their experiences with A.P.

Students at Garfield High role-play on the issue of immigration in a project-based Advanced Placement class taught by Jerry Neufeld-Kaiser. From left: Dominick Lewis, Israel Brown, Merron Teklu, Carlos Perryman, Sanai Anang and Lalah Muth. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

Students at Garfield High take part in a role-playing exercise during a project-based Advanced Placement class taught by Jerry Neufeld-Kaiser. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

For the latest full-length Education Lab story, reporter Linda Shaw examined a new way of teaching Advanced Placement that focuses more on classroom simulations and project-based learning, and less on lectures and memorization.

Below, a handful of students at Garfield High School, one of the schools trying out the new approach, join with students from other high schools that use the traditional A.P. curriculum in discussing their experiences with advanced learning. Here are some of their responses:


Responses from Garfield High School students

SenacropName: Sena Alkadir
Year: Senior

Q: What A.P. classes have you taken or are you currently enrolled in?

A: U.S. History, World History, Calculus, Physics, English Literature and Composition, English Language and Composition, U.S. Government and Politics

Q: What’s been the best and worst part of your experience with A.P.?

A: In a traditional A.P. class, my worst experience, at the time, was sitting in a desk, day in and day out listening to the teacher lecture for hours. At the time, it was very boring because I was just sitting there, sometimes half asleep, letting the information soak in. But looking back on it now, as boring as it might have been, I was able to learn a lot because the information was coming at me everyday.

In this new A.P. class, there are little to no lectures — it’s mostly all simulation. My best experience in this class was when we did a presidential election simulation because it taught us all the different aspects of an election in a very interactive manner. Although I already knew about elections and how they work, by simulating an actual election I was able to get a deeper understanding of how they work. For example, I learned interest groups have a lot of influence over an election, and they ensure that an elected official will almost always address their issue before anything else.

Q: Do you feel A.P. has helped prepare you for your future education or career goals? If so, how?

A: Yes, A.P. courses have helped prepare me for the future. In the traditional sense, I think it has prepared me for a college education. And A.P. courses, specifically World History and US History, have grasped my interest so much that I am considering pursuing a degree in history.

duncancropName: Duncan Skerrett
Year: Senior

Q: What A.P. classes have you taken or are you currently enrolled in?

A: World History, Computer Science, English Language and Composition, Chemistry, US History, Calculus AB, Physics, Statistics, Comparative Government, Calculus BC, Macroeconomics, English Literature and Composition

Q: Why did you first decide to take A.P.?

A: I started taking A.P. courses in my sophomore year because I wanted to learn from the best teachers with an academically motivated peer group. Additionally, I wanted to take the classes that would best prepare me for college. So far, the A.P. classes have met but not exceeded my expectations. I have enjoyed my teachers and peers and have learned quite a bit. However, A.P. class time can get monotonous and dreary. This year, I decided to take project-based government in order to diversify my A.P. schedule.

Q: Do you feel A.P. has helped prepare you for your future education or career goals? If so, how?

A: A.P. courses are designed to mimic entry level college classes in terms of structure and pacing. I feel that traditional A.P. classes have helped me gain fundamental studying and time management skills. However, these courses tend to prioritize efficiency and expediency over fun and engagement. I have learned an array of new things in project- based government that I may otherwise have missed in the semester-long government class.

Project-based government, unlike the traditional A.P. approach, allows me to learn by doing. Rather than sitting and taking notes on the media’s role in an election, I get to be Jon Stewart covering a class election. Instead of reading about the speaker’s powers, I get to be the speaker of the House and run a floor session. These experiences have given me collaboration and presentation skills that I would have missed out on in a standard A.P. class. Additionally, experiencing the material in such a way greatly increases the percent I retain in the long run.

Rachael Carrell senior portraitsName: Rachael Carrell
Year: Senior

Q: What A.P. classes have you taken or are you currently enrolled in?

A: World History, U.S. History, Government, Calculus, Statistics, Environmental Science, English Language and Composition, English Literature and Composition

Q: What’s been the best and worst part of your experience with A.P.?

A: The project-based government class that I am taking this year with Mr. Neufeld-Kaiser has been the best experience I have had with A.P. classes. Each day of class has something interesting going on, made only better by the great class dynamic. When I consider the workload for this class, it seems very easy compared to other classes I have taken such as A.P. U.S. History, which required notes on two chapters of reading each week. Still, I find that I understand the material more, and I retain it for much longer. This is especially important to me because I am dyslexic. Reading and outlining one to two chapters form a history textbook is pretty exhausting for me, so being in a class that requires less mind-numbing reading and teaches me more is great.

QWould you recommend A.P. to friends who have never tried it before?

A: My recommendation for taking A.P. classes varies. I find that some classes try to push through so much material in such a short time that they really bypasses actually learning and comprehending; however, other classes that aren’t A.P. classes can fail to challenge students enough. What I do know for sure is that I would recommend taking project-based A.P. classes. These classes have been engaging and informative and have excited me about my classes.

burhan2Name: Burhan Nurdin
Year: Senior

Q: What A.P. classes have you taken or are you currently enrolled in?

A: Computer Science, English Language and Composition, English Literature and Composition, World History, Government

Q: Why did you first decide to take A.P.?

A: I felt like I needed to challenge myself more. Taking regular and honors classes could get me thinking, but taking A.P. always kept me on my toes.

Q: Do you feel A.P. has helped prepare you for your future education or career goals? If so, how?

A: Yes. I plan to focus more on computer science when I enter college. By taking an Advanced Placement computer science course while in high school, I will have a head start before I even reach college.


Responses from other students

kelliName: Kelli Adams
Year: Junior
School: Kentridge High School (Kent)

Q: What A.P. classes have you taken or are you currently enrolled in?

A: Chemistry, English Language and Composition, U.S. Government and Politics

Q: What could teachers do to make A.P. classes better?

A: Preparing students for the challenges of the course before entering in. Truthful explanations and course descriptions will better help student understand if they can handle the stress of the course before signing up instead of being locked into the class and struggling to keep up. I had firsthand experience with this in my A.P. Chemistry class.

QWhat’s been the best and worst part of your experience with A.P.?

A: Worst: There are those moments when I am sitting in one of my A.P. classes, and I can physically feel my brain start to throb. And all these thoughts start to run through my head: I have no idea what is going on. I’m lost. This is horrible. I will never graduate. I will never be smart. I will never succeed. Best: Those moments when I realize that I do understand, that I can do it and I will do it. That moment when you realize you don’t have to do it alone. You don’t have to sink in the rough waters of Advanced Placement. You have peers and teachers who are more than willing to help. You just have to ask.

carolineName: Caroline Malone
Year: Sophomore
School: Holy Names Academy (Seattle)

Q: What A.P. classes have you taken or are you currently enrolled in?

A: I am current taking Psychology. Next year, I plan to take Computer Science and French.

Q: What’s been the best and worst part of your experience with A.P.?

A: I can’t think of a worst part of my A.P. experience so far. I think the work load is something to get used to, especially for high school students. But the best part is the experiences you get. I think that A.P. classes will make me much more prepared for college and give me a better idea of what I want to do later in life. Another great part is connecting upperclassmen and underclassmen — at Holy Names, our A.P. classes include multiple grade levels.

Q: Do you feel A.P. has helped prepare you for your future education or career goals? If so, how?

A: I hope that the A.P. courses that I take in high school will prepare me for my later education. I think the best thing an A.P. course can do is open students’ eyes to all of the possibilities for careers before they get to college and there for have a better idea of what they want to do later on.

Kevin PhamName: Kevin Pham
Year: Senior
School: Kentridge High School (Kent)

Q: What A.P. classes have you taken or are you currently enrolled in?

A: Computer Science, U.S. Government and Politics, Statistics, English Literature and Composition. Calculus AB, English Language and Composition, Human Geography and Physics B

Q: What could teachers do to make A.P. classes better?

A: Teachers and administrators should allow kids who take A.P. classes to be more independent. There’s a lot of hand holding that I believe is not necessary. If you take an A.P. class, you should be prepared to do your homework and study on your own time.

Q: Do you feel A.P. has helped prepare you for your future education or career goals? If so, how?

A: Yes, I believe I learned a lot more than I would have if I were in core classes.

We also received some responses about A.P. from people who are currently in college or graduated awhile ago. A sampling:

My thoughts on project-based classes: They work well, but they required very talented teachers. Though I have been fortunate enough to have many fantastic teachers, I have also had some teachers that were far short of fantastic. In those classes, project-based learning is not as effective as more traditional teaching because without such an engaging teacher, the lessons fall flat.

Grant Bronsdon, Garfield High School graduate (currently a sophomore at Yale)

My experience was that Advanced Placement was better than the curriculum for other high school students, but that it was basically a sham. We were told that we could skip a year of college. This was completely false, as high school advanced placement courses were nowhere near the level of college courses at a top university.

Linda Seltzer, Redmond

My daughter took 7 AP courses at Olympia High School while in high school. I noticed a lot of late nights and sleep deprivation. Taking all of those tests was stressful, but I feel she was prepared well. She was admitted to Purdue with sophomore standing, got to move to the second year of calculus in her freshman year, and because of her class standing got to register for classes before her same-year peers. She managed to use many of these courses for general education requirements, and because of this, was able to minor in German as well as major in mechanical engineering and take orchestra for enjoyment.

Pamela Moore, Tacoma

The computer science course in particular prepared me well for college  I knew much of the material already. It allowed me enough credit to skip a full year’s worth of college, saving upwards of $40,000 and allowing me to spend that money on a one-year master’s degree at Cornell. It basically got me my job at Microsoft.

Michael Sullivan, Sammamish

Comments | More in Your voices

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►