“DSST is committed to not just offering AP courses, but to ensuring that students will be successful on the AP exams in order to earn college credit.”
This statement is written on the official DSST website regarding the AP classes offered here. Teachers of Advanced Placement classes focus on preparing the students for the hardest possible content offered in High School. However, many students taking these classes struggle keeping up with the content, specifically the students enrolled in AP Chemistry.
AP Chemistry may just be the hardest course offered at DSST, and it is given to sophomores who succeed in Physics and require more stimulating work. Lately though there has been a lot of talk on the logistics of giving the class to students at such a young age. There is no easy solution for the struggling kids in the class, and the main question remains: Is AP Chem a good class for sophomores?
First, some background. AP Chem is a college level course that focuses on the main properties of chemistry, and when they are broken. If a student receives a 3, 4 or a 5 on their AP Chem test, it means they have succeeded in understanding the principles of the class. Most colleges will accept high AP scores as a base level credit for the class, and students will not need to take the introductory class in college. Sounds simple enough. However, most schools offer AP Chem to juniors and seniors. Here at DSST, there are sophomores taking the class.
The problem is that there is no way to properly measure the success of the students as a whole. As a sophomore taking the class, I know some kids get the content easy and succeed on tests, and there are students who study for hours on end and still fail exams. By spending time reading and working through practice problems, going in for tutoring, and studying out of school, kids can confidently take chemistry tests and get decent grades. One student, Ben Taylor, is an example. Ben spends around an hour every morning going over chemistry work, and all day is focusing on the material learned. He puts in a lot of time out of school, and is rewarded with high grades in the class. For the few, this class is helpful and does provide a challenge. Student Santiago Hernandez stated, “It’s hard, but if you’re interested in chemistry you should take it. Don’t take it just to try it out.” The problem is the fact that so many people are taking the class. In past years, there has been 1 AP Chem class. This year, there are 2. Over 60 students taking a college level class. The more students enrolled, the harder it is for the teachers to keep everyone on track. Mr. Gigiolio, who teaches 6th period AP Chem, commented on the insane amount of students enrolled. “It’s just too much to handle at a time,” he stated. Students have already started falling behind while others excel. In other classes, students can spend time catching up on missed material. In this college course, content moves so fast that students end up further back then they started. Some students do not end up prepared for the exam in the spring, and there is nothing more the teachers can do.
It should be known the class does run for the suggested time. College board recommends that people spend about 270 minutes a week on AP Classes, just in the room. Technically, DSST meets that criteria. Students spend four and a half hours a week in AP Chem, just over the recommended time. Yet, students often have activities after school. Some students have started working, and also have to keep up their five other classes. The expectation to work on chemistry out of school is unrealistic for a lot of students at this age, where perhaps older students taking the class would be better able to balance their schedules and find working on the class out of school interesting, rather than a chore.
So, should the class remain for sophomores? After reviewing everything, I do not believe so. While there are enough students doing well in the class, the majority of student’s struggle. The class is meant for people interested in chemistry and those who want to follow a chemistry career path. Students at this age have little idea what they want to pursue. They also have to balance all of their other classes. That being said though, regular chemistry is not enough for a lot of high preforming students. DSST needs to introduce a new chemistry class for sophomores, a mix of AP and Regular Chem. An Honors Chem class would allow certain students to be challenged, but not enough to have anyone be left behind. Kids could learn some AP Chemistry foundations, preparing them for the class later in their lives. As seniors, students may be better able to manage the demands of the class, but as sophomores it’s just too much. For anyone thinking about taking the class, do not think you can just breeze through it. It requires a lot of time put both in and out of school and constant practice over the material. Yet it is possible. Until DSST Changes the curriculum, AP Chemistry will remain a challenging course for the sophomores.