Written by Esther Kozakevich
Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), a committee made up Gunn students, parents, teachers, and admin, have been discussing three potential actions in light of recent events at Gunn. One of the proposed reforms is to limit the number of AP courses at Gunn. “No decisive action regarding APs is being made at this time, at least not until we have many community wide discussions in the spring,” Dr. Denise Herrmann said. “However, we have had several WASC meetings, and there has been a lot of support shown from students, parents and teachers for the limitation of Advanced placement courses.”
According to Herrmann, there is strong parental support to limit APs students may take. At a Wed night meeting on November 5th, parents came together to listen to ideas and discuss possible improvements for decreasing student stress. According to Herrmann, “During the Q and A, one parent voiced their concerns that AP courses were a large source of student stress and received thunderous applause for their comment.”
Herrmann, however, clarified that ultimately WASC and parents are not responsible for implementing any changes. An AP limit, in general, will not be put in place without overwhelming support from the staff and student bodies. “Although it would be up to individual committees to decide whether or not these limits would be put in place, the fact that people are open to new ideas to help regulate rigor and openly discussing mental health is a very good thing,” Herrmann said.
According to WASC member and AP Physics teacher Bill Dunbar, an AP limit may not necessarily be the most effective solution. “Students are smart and responsible, and both students and parents need to be a part of the process for deciding on a rigorous, but not too rigorous course load for students,” Dunbar said. “People often talk about APs like they’re evil, but just because they’re hard does not make them bad.” However, according to Dunbar, teachers, as a whole, are split on their opinions on AP limits. AP US History teacher Chris Johnson believes limiting APs could be a valuable step in the process of improving Gunn. “The reason to take an AP course is because you’re passionate about the class, not to pad your transcript,” Johnson said. “By limiting APs, students would be taking classes they actually like, which would boost the quality of work they put into their courses.”
There is also disparity in student opinion. WASC member and student Emma Waldspurger does not think of limiting APs will be a viable solution. “As far as WASC’s three main goals: redefining success, closing the achievement gap and gathering better data on student life, I don’t really see how limiting APs fits in. I think APs are often scapegoated as the issue for stress, as they can be great in pursuing existing passions and interests” Waldspurger said. “We’ve reached a boiling point, and something needs to be done, but I’m not sure if limiting APs is the right action.”