Underclassmen excluded from APs for rounded experience

Student well-being made priority in unique school policy

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Underclassmen excluded from APs for rounded experience

Alessia Liebovich

Alessia Liebovich

Alessia Liebovich

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AP classes at New Trier are subject to a unique policy that limits enrollment to junior and senior students, barring sophomores from registering, a decision with which some students and staff take issue.

Most neighboring schools, including Evanston Township High School and Stevenson High School, lack a similar policy. ETHS sophomores have the option to take some AP courses, one example being AP US Government and Politics. At Stevenson, AP Physics 1 is open to sophomores, along with a few other AP classes.

New Trier’s administration, however, feels there is good reason to limit AP classes to only junior and senior students. Director of Curriculum and Instruction at the Winnetka Campus, Chimille Dillard, believes that moving from Northfield to the Winnetka campus is already a big transition.

“To add an AP class on top of that, that’s just a lot. We want to think about the ‘total student’ and everyone’s complete well-being. And we want to set all of you up for success. Success not just with grades, but success for social-emotional health and mental health,” said Dillard.

Dillard also said it’s important to keep in mind that AP courses are designed for college students who typically have a shorter school day and fewer extracurriculars to balance than high school students.

“I think high school students have a lot on them. So an AP class adds that much more,” said Dillard.

Science teacher Elaine Kollar agreed that sophomores would find AP classes too challenging. Kollar explained that AP courses often require knowledge or skill sets that many sophomores haven’t had the ability to attain yet.

Kollar said, “[The sophomores] might be able to handle the content in some ways, but it’s the study strategies that probably are not really well-developed yet.”

Some students also support the policy that bars sophomore students from taking AP classes. Junior Lindsey Feeley said that being limited to non-AP classes her sophomore year was a positive thing.

“I was kind of relieved, because I did not feel like I was obligated to take an AP class,” said Feeley.

She explained that, considering the rigor of AP classes that are currently offered, she doesn’t think they should be opened to sophomores. 

But she did say that if classes such as AP Human Geography—an AP class that sophomore students at other schools tend to take—were added to the course list, New Trier should consider opening those classes to sophomores.

But, unlike Feeley, some students are unhappy with the policy that limits AP classes to junior and senior students, as they feel they should have the freedom to take AP classes if they want to.

Sophomore Sia Mittal said, “It can be advised that it’s a little more rigorous and that it might be harder, but it should not be restricted. People should have the option to do what they want.”

Although Mittal acknowledged that AP classes and level four classes are not identical in rigor and content, she said that if a student is able to handle a level four class, they most likely would be able to handle an AP class too.

History teacher David Heineman agreed. Heineman stated that while he does believe some sophomores are not yet ready to take a college level class, he thinks some sophomores should be allowed to take AP classes nonetheless.

“I know that there are a lot of people who are opposed to it and I don’t think they’re wrong. I would be okay with opening some AP classes up to some sophomores,” said Heineman.

Senior Ryan Hillyer said that opening AP classes to sophomores would almost definitely lead to an increase in stress levels across the grade. Despite these drawbacks, Hillyer agreed that AP classes should be open to underclassmen too.

“The school should not have the authority to make the same decision for every student, as some may be more ready for the classes than others, and a single blanket decision cannot cater to the needs of many individuals,” said Hillyer.

Some students have voiced worries that not being able to take AP classes earlier in their academic career might put them at a disadvantage when applying to competitive schools.

However, Post-High School Counseling Department Chair James Conroy said, “The colleges know that we don’t allow that, so it isn’t like they’re going to penalize our kids.”

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