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Is your teen up for the challenge?

If your student wants to get more out of his high school classes, Advanced Placement may be the key

Are AP classes right for your teen


When Sarah Rizzo of Hyde Park was attending Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Hyde Park, she decided to challenge herself by taking some Advanced Placement (AP) courses. The 2007 graduate took U.S. History and Studio Art in Drawing.

“The work in AP U.S. History was ridiculously difficult,” says Rizzo, adding that the class added further stress to her final year of high school, but it didn’t interfere with her social life because most of her friends were in the same classes and they would “freak out together.”


While Rizzo says she was able to apply the AP Studio Art toward college credit, she lost out on all the hard work she put into the AP U.S. History because MICA didn't require a social studies course.


So, would she have taken the AP U.S. History if she had a chance to do it all again? Probably not, she says, because it was a lot of work and the credit didn't count at the arts school she chose. Had she gone to a more traditional school, she would have been able to transfer the credit.


Sarah Rizzo, like many students across the Hudson Valley, put in extra effort during her final year of high school to make her entry to college a bit smoother. As admission to colleges across the country gets more competitive, high school students are going to greater lengths to boost their transcripts through college-level coursework during high school. Students are enrolling in AP classes not only to impress college admissions offices, but also to prepare themselves for the college course load.


AP classes enable high school students to earn college credit, advanced placement or both while still in high school. The College Board, a not-for-profit membership association which owns and administers the AP Program, offers 37 courses in 22 subject areas – including calculus, politics, computer science, music theory, even Latin literature and Chinese language.

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The AP Program is a national program with standardized testing. In order for the College Board to certify a high school for a subject, the teacher must submit an overview or an outline of what they will be teaching, the labs, a timeline and a plan. The College Board then must approve the curriculum.


It is up to the individual schools to decide which teachers are qualified to teach an AP course. Usually it is a veteran teacher who may be tenured, who majored in that subject in college and has expertise in that subject area.


Not all schools offer AP classes, however. Of those that do, some offer just a handful while others have a dozen. The number of AP classes a school offers is primarily determine by the number of qualified teachers at the school. What is their educational background and experience? Of those qualified, what is their desire and commitment to teach an AP class?


Another important factor in this equation is the students. Are they interested in AP classes and will they be able to handle the work load?


Cora Stempel, assistant superintendent for Instruction and Personnel for the Hyde Park School District, says the decision to offer AP courses is a shared decision between teachers, guidance, academic directors and the building principal based on questions such as: Is there student interest and student performance? What is the experience and background of the teachers? Is there a budget for the programs?


The cost for the school is minimal. Stempel says that teachers do not get paid extra for teaching AP classes, and if the money wasn't spent on AP courses it would be spent on other electives. Once the above questions are explored and a plan presented, the Board of Education grants final approval.


How does the program operate? A qualified teacher teaches the course over the duration of the school year with the final exam given in May. The student pays a fee, about $88 per exam. The exam is scored from 1 to 5, with a score of 3 or better earning college credit. Ivy League schools often require a 5.


Valerie Marchini is a freelance writer. This is her second article for Hudson Valley Parent.