by Alexandra Levy, staff writer
MAY 2022 — Despite student preference, Bio-Med Science Academy has no plans to offer Advanced Placement (AP) classes for the 2022-2023 school year.
AP classes are a national program for high school students governed by the College Board. The classes serve as an introduction to college-level material for high school students and allow students to earn college credits before graduating if they score high enough on the AP exam.
Mrs. Whitney Mihalik, the junior history and college career and civics teacher at Bio-Med, taught AP U.S. History as well as AP European History at Benedictine High School in Cleveland for three years. Mihalik additionally took AP classes herself while in high school.
“An AP class is a deep-dive into content and critical analysis. It is not a class for students who do not know the background. It is collegiate level content, and it is attentive. It is for students who want to excel in that subject matter,” said Mihalik.
The classes prepare students for the AP tests. The student’s score on the test determines whether they have displayed an understanding of the college-level content and if the student will receive college credit for the course, depending on the college’s requirements.
“AP classes do offer more flexibility for educators. I personally am trained as a historian as opposed to an educator, so that flexibility allowed me to utilize my skills in teaching AP students,” explained Mihalik. “The teaching style for AP is often a lecture, and doesn’t help you learn history. There is also a lot of memorization, but I feel like now, a lot of people underestimate the importance of memorization in education, but it can make a huge difference.”
Bio-Med currently does not offer AP classes to students but reminds them that the option to take the test without the preparation of the class is available. Students can register for the tests on the official College Board website. When signing up for the test, the website will additionally direct students to the nearest test center.
Chief administrative officer Mrs. Stephanie Lammlein commented, “Since the beginning of developing the academy, we have not and have no plans to adopt AP courses. AP courses have a strict curriculum that doesn’t align with the pillars, mission, and vision of the academy.”
However, many students would appreciate the opportunity to take an advanced-level class and earn college credit within school.
Sophomore Irenne Scherer feels as though AP classes might take them to a greater level of education.
“I personally feel like I would pay more attention if the classes were more challenging, and I had to pay attention. I think it would benefit other students in similar ways, and some people might even be more motivated in those higher-pressure situations,” said Scherer.
Mihalik agreed that many students could benefit from both the curriculum of an AP class and the learning style that students need for the test. A study from the College Board showed that, on average, AP students had a 78.4 percent chance of attending a four-year college program after high school, while non-AP students had an average 63.4 percent chance of attending a four-year college program.
“I think students that put in the work benefit from AP classes. In my experience, students who did all of their reading and completed all their work, left the class with a better education of history and left as better students. You have to go in-depth in order to prepare for the test. I didn’t have all the information when I took the test in high school, but it still prepared me for learning history. I would even go as far as to encourage the class for students not interested in college. It’s how the teaching method prepares you for learning, not the actual material,” affirmed Mihalik.
Scherer claimed that they are interested in the aforementioned learning style of AP classes and would take an AP class if it was offered at Bio-Med.
“I would take it, because I think that it is better for me to take college courses in school instead of just taking easy high school classes or college classes online,” said Scherer. “I still take college classes online, but for me, I succeed more from learning in-person, so I would want to prepare for the test in a class instead of on my own online.”
Mihalik suggested how Bio-Med could integrate AP classes into the existing curriculum: “I think Bio-Med would benefit from AP classes, especially in humanities. We offer very different types of STEM classes, but I think that in terms of humanities, AP classes would prepare students for college in a way their current classes aren’t.”
Senior Kelsea Cooper disagreed and expressed she felt that the addition of an AP class into Bio-Med is unnecessary because Bio-Med offers different opportunities.
“I think some of the courses offered at Bio-Med are already challenging in their own ways but, I think it could have been nice to be offered some more challenging AP courses,” said Cooper. “However, Bio-Med’s model of learning and schedule doesn’t necessarily fit with a ton of AP classes.”
Ms. Jenna Bates, the eleventh grade English teacher at Bio-Med, taught AP Literature and Composition at Coventry High School in Akron for 13 years and agreed with Mihalik that AP classes might benefit Bio-Med students.
“I think Bio-Med students could benefit from AP and that is the one continuous complaint that I have heard throughout my career here, but I understand what that would entail for Bio-Med and the strain that it puts on a lot of the in-place systems. There are benefits and drawbacks,” said Bates.
Additionally, Bates explained that AP classes have a greater amount of work than some Bio-Med classes because they are just different learning environments.
“AP classes usually were smaller classes, so I got to know the students a lot better [than some of my non-AP students] and we were able to do a deeper-dive into subject matter. We created a collaborative environment,” observed Bates. “Students did two to three times the amount of work in AP when compared to Bio-Med students. [The students] probably read 15 to 20 books a year as opposed to four to five books a year at Bio-Med.”
Bates also explained that both AP classes and a normal Bio-Med class each have strengths and weaknesses.
“There are things I do at Bio-Med that I wouldn’t do in an AP class. Here I can step away from the focus on standardized testing and focus on interesting projects,” she said. “That being said, one of the reasons I’m an English teacher today is because I took two years of AP English in high school myself.”
Sophomore Chemistry teacher Ms. Catherine Panchyshyn took multiple AP classes throughout her high school career, including AP Government, AP European History, AP Literature, AP Language, AP American Studies, AP Calculus, and AP Art History. She weighed in on how she feels AP classes could impact Bio-Med students.
“It gives a differentiated, secondary level for students looking for a challenge,” added Panchyshyn. “I don’t know if my experience in AP classes helped me to be a better teacher, but it did help me be a better student when I got to college.”
Jimmy Schindewolf is a student at Kent State University who took AP Literature and Composition with Bates while he was attending Coventry High School. Schindewolf feels as though the class was not only good for college credit, but also helped him to become a better student and writer because of the deep-dive into content.
“I think they are incredibly beneficial, in more ways than one. On top of having the potential to earn college credit through AP exams, students get to dive deeper into the subjects they are learning about and get to develop and hone their skills and understandings surrounding the topic of a given course,” he said.
Schindewolf also credited his AP class to his current education.
“If I hadn’t taken AP Literature and Composition, I don’t think I would have been nearly as successful in writing papers for my college classes. And now with the skills I learned back in that class, I am working on my master’s degree at Kent State in Literature and Writing!” exclaimed Schindewolf.
Justin Taylor is a graduate of political science from Kent State University and a graduate of Coventry High School who also took AP Literature and Composition with Bates as well as AP Government and AP Calculus. Like Schindewolf, Taylor credited the decision of his college major to his high school AP classes.
“My experience with these courses was almost exclusively positive. I especially enjoyed AP English as the course led me through more than a dozen of some of the greatest works in modern literature. AP Government ended up inspiring me to pursue the subject in college,” said Taylor.
Taylor expressed how taking an AP class helped him feel not only motivated, but also prepared for learning.
“I think students benefit greatly from taking AP courses,” he said. “I felt more motivated to learn in AP classes because there’s a built-in expectation that these courses build that students are at the top of their game. If a student plans to go to college, AP classes are hugely beneficial not just because of the potential to earn college credits with the exams at the end of the year, but I felt that these courses were also the only ones that adequately prepared me in terms of knowledge and writing strategies.”
Taylor recommended AP classes for any student who is prepared to make the commitment to the learning experience of the class, even if that student doesn’t wish to pursue higher education.
“Even if a student decides not to go to college, skills learned in AP courses help with critical thinking, managing multiple tasks at once, and finding a love for learning that will go with the student regardless of their career path,” commented Taylor. “Regardless of career path or college, or no college at all, these classes expose you to information that would not be experienced in standard high school classes and learning is always good, even if it doesn’t apply to your future plans.”
Mary Claire Shaffer is a graduate of Kent State University who majored in Political Science and minored in Women’s Studies and took AP English with Bates and AP Government. She credits her time in AP Government for helping her decide her college major.
“There was a big difference between an AP class and a regular class. The AP classes were more collaborative and went into greater detail. Ms. Bates always valued our opinions and helped us to make our own educated opinions,” said Shaffer. “AP classes prepared me for college more than any of my other classes. As a student I learned what it means to write a good paper and how to make a good analysis. It also motivated me to learn more and form more well-rounded opinions.”
Shaffer also expressed how AP classes gave her an outlet to her identity as a politically-active feminist in society.
“I never had a word to identify myself; Ms. Bates and my AP classes helped me to form my identity as a person and as a feminist,” said Shaffer. “AP classes helped me to lay the foundation of my identity and the reasons behind my beliefs. So much of the information from feminism and feminist critque that really changed my world and my identity and how I see myself and I absorb content today.”
Shaffer elaborated that AP classes helped her to develop into the adult she is today.
“Ms. Bates used to tell us to ‘always be informed, no matter what setting you are in,’” said Shaffer, “AP classes helped me and my classmates academically and we took education seriously. But learning how to be informed in different environments was the jumpstart of making students into well-rounded young adults in the world.”
Mrs. Jill Balderson is an AP Studio Art, AP 2D Art, and AP 3D Art teacher at Glenoak High School, who also believes that AP classes prepare students for their futures after high school graduation.
“My district supports AP and encourages students to follow accelerated pathways,” said Balderson. “If schools offer honors, CCP (College Credit Plus) or IB (International Baccalaureate) courses, there should also be AP offered, too. I’m sure staffing can be difficult depending on the size of the district.”
Balderson additionally explained that AP classes do require a more academically rigorous learning process, but that the effects that the classes have on students benefit them in the future.
“The pacing is faster and includes work completed during the summer and the expectations are higher as well,” commented Balderson. “I believe AP courses prepare students for college classes, the classes also can grant high school students a chance to earn college credit.”
Mihalik concluded, “It’s not up to me, because I can’t determine the curriculum. Technically, students can take the test without taking the class, but AP is a nationally and internationally recognized program. The benefits of a widely known program could help Bio-Med students in their transition into their future education and position in the workforce. If students are interested in AP in Bio-Med, they should do their own research and lobby it with the administration to show that there is a student interest in taking those classes.”