The news site of Miami Palmetto Senior High School

It’s not December, so please, don’t “Christmas-Tree” it

May 6, 2018

The month of May is arguably the most horrible time of the year (unless you have a birthday – in that case, then May is definitely the most horrible time of the year and I apologize for the bad timing of your birth). It marks the end of the school year, and with it, a slew of exams awaiting the lead tips of our No. 2 pencils – and possibly some tears and higher blood pressure.

Seniors who have taken Advanced Placement exams know the anxiety that comes along with the first couple weeks of May, and especially at Palmetto: according to U.S. News, in the 2014-15 school year, 68 percent of Palmetto seniors took at least one AP exam over the course of their four high school years. Of those seniors, 51 percent passed at least one exam.

I can say with full honesty that every year since freshman year, I have heard plenty of conversations among seniors regarding their genius plans to nap, christmas-tree (a term that describes when test-takers absentmindedly bubble in A through E back in forth) or perhaps plan out their future wedding in their heads during their AP exams because “they don’t matter anymore.” I pity those seniors.

To my VI8IN Senior Class of 2018, go ahead – fight me – but there is no better way to diss your teachers and yourselves by blowing off an AP exam. Surprisingly, taking the test to surprise yourself isn’t one of my reasons – nor do my reasons have to do with the spirit of academic fervor and the desire to know how well you performed. Those are probably the best reasons, but not the most logical.

Last summer, when I visited Washington, D.C. for a week-long journalism conference, I met one student from every other state in the country; not until I talked to them did I realize that most other states charge their AP students for their exams. Would you still take six AP exams your senior year knowing you would have to pay $94 for each exam? I thought not. Let’s not take for granted the one favor the Florida Department of Education decided to grace us with.

On another financial note, keep in mind that taking these exams not only costs our state money – a hefty $94 per exam per student, at that – but our teachers as well.

If I may indulge for a second, AP teachers at Palmetto are some of the best in the county: out of the 44 percent of students enrolled in an AP class at Palmetto, our teachers boast an impressive 46 percent pass rate compared to the state average at 22 percent. Sound low? It’s not. This places Palmetto in the 94th percentile in the state, which lies significantly higher than Florida’s median pass rate in the 22nd percentile, according to College Simply.

Palmetto’s AP teachers certainly want to see their students pass their exams to validate their students’ abilities and their own teaching, but in addition to that, the state of Florida provides some enticing incentives for teachers whose students pass their exams. According to the Education Commision of the States, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization devoted to nationwide education issues, each district in Florida must provide a $50 bonus to AP teachers for each student who passes their exam with a 3 or higher, with an additional $500 for teachers at D- or F-ranked schools.

That only outlines the perks – our scores (unfortunately) determine AP teachers’ pay, and on paper they serve as an indicator of teacher effectiveness. A student who can pass his or her AP Art History exam with a 5 but instead decides to take a nap during the free response questions is synonymous to flipping off a teacher who worked hard all year to teach the material (rude, if you ask me).

Okay, let’s say you don’t care about the financial aspect – fine. But as seniors who will attend college – and most people who take AP classes do attend college, hence the purpose of offering such higher-level classes – it makes no sense to blow off an exam out of pure laziness. The vast majority of colleges offer college credit for earning certain scores on AP exams, which ultimately means clearing credits in high school and taking another step closer to graduating in college. Why should you take the equivalent of AP Literature for a second time? Colleges understand that.

Depending on the school and the class, those credits could add up to a huge chunk of classes cleared (and money saved!) in college. Most schools, for example, will grant credits to students who pass the AP Calculus AB or BC exams with a 4 or a 5, so if you would like to spare yourself the trouble of going through that all over again, it may not be a bad idea to put some effort into studying.

Trust me, I am a senior myself: I get it. At this point in the year, we know what school we will attend in the fall, and failing an exam will not rescind our enrollment. It would be dumb to short-sell yourself, however, by passing up the opportunity to get ahead in college and earn the much-deserved reward of college credits before we even step foot on campus in a few months. We spent the past four years learning beyond the four walls of a classroom – it only seems fair to pay it forward and do well on AP exams at least for the sake of our educators.


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