AP Testing: One Teacher’s Opinion

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Stephen Rezendes, a long-time physics teacher at West Potomac, is retiring this year. He’s enjoyed his teaching career — largely due to his students.

“I like 11th graders,” Rezendes said. “They’re my favorite age to teach. They’re almost adults, they’re thinking about the future, and they’re serious about their studies (for the most part).”

While he’s enjoyed teaching, one aspect hasn’t been his favorite: AP testing.

“There’s way too much of [AP testing],” Rezendes said. “There’s too much pressure on the kids; there’s too much stress and strain on the kids.”

It didn’t used to be this way. Physics 1 used to be offered as a general-education course and an Honors course. That changed for the 2015-2016 school year.

“I recommended not turning Honors Physics into AP Physics, but they didn’t listen to me,” Rezendes said.

AP testing largely influences the curriculum in Rezendes’ classroom, and how much focus is placed on specific topics.

“I have to cover certain material by May 2,” Rezendes said. “I never thought I’d have to teach torque (rotational force) for a month like I had to this year—that’s because it was on the test last year.”

In Rezendes’ classroom, the units on the test overshadow other fields of physics.

“There are things I’d like to teach that I can’t, like light,” he said. “They do mechanical waves and sound waves, but they don’t do light. I’ll do light after the AP test. Normally I would do light and sound together.”

Because of the wide reach in curriculum on these tests, individual teachers don’t have much power to change what’s on them—but Rezendes has a few ideas if he could change the system.

“Number one, I’d do what they’re doing next year and start in August to give us more time,’ he said. “Number two, I’d basically reduce the pressure for the kids to take as many APs as possible. There’s got to be some way to change that, because you don’t need to take seven AP classes to get into a good college, but everybody thinks they do. They’re under so much pressure as juniors, it’s just amazing. I’d change that if I could.”

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