Student Opinion on Additional JBS AP Courses

Carrie Zhang, Reporter

Each class at Burroughs is composed of a hundred or so students, and each class receives students from a variety of schools. There are classic feeders like Forsyth, Community, New City, and Wilson, just to name a few. Fewer students hail from schools such as my own, Waterloo Junior High Public School (WJHS), located in the bustling town of Waterloo, Illinois, population 7,000. To say the least, the Burroughs workload, even in seventh grade, had drastic differences compared to my sixth-grade courses. It was not just more homework or classes: it was the level of intensity in each class. While a decent percentage of students at WJHS did not care much about their grades, most everyone at Burroughs did. Teachers were invested in ways I was not familiar with. They wanted to help us be better. They wanted to see us grow.

After growing accustomed to the style of the Burroughs education, seventh grade was a breeze for me, if you disregard the bad glasses and braces. Eighth grade, while challenging, was never too overwhelming. And then, high school.

Burroughs always offers students the opportunity to take accelerated courses. In certain cases, students may even be allowed to skip courses. This is true for subjects such as math, where students may take a test to pass Algebra I. In high school, the freshmen are offered Accelerated Biology, and sophomores are given the choice to take Accelerated Chemistry. In these courses, teachers help students prepare for the SAT exams.

However, Advanced Placement (AP) courses are not offered to students until junior year, and even then, we are only allowed to take up to three honors and AP courses.

AP courses are offered in languages, math, and science, but not English or history. As stated on the Burroughs website, the reasoning behind this is that “The AP curriculum, by design, is exceedingly structured and test-driven. That works perfectly well for our math department where our goals for calculus parallel those of the AP curriculum. But in the case of English, for example, the goals of the AP course are too prescriptive for our teachers who emphasize classroom discussion and challenging writing assignments.”

Without a doubt, all of our classes offer a challenge, and even in ninth grade, Accelerated Biology was much more difficult than any previous class I had taken. Trying to squeeze in a heavier workload when we are already working on our other electives, core classes, and sports seems a little far-fetched. Even in the courses such as English and history that do not offer AP options, classes provide ample knowledge and guidance that make it possible for us to succeed in taking the AP tests, which do not require a student to have actually taken the AP class in high school.

At the same time, because most of the AP classes are not offered until junior year and there is a limit to the number of honors and AP classes a student can take, our options can be limited. What happens if we want to take AP Chemistry and AP Biology, both of which are only offered senior year?

Burroughs provides us with such an exceptional education that in many classes, we are well prepared to take the AP test even if we are not enrolled in the actual AP class. Ann Zhang ‘20 says, “I like how there aren’t many AP classes because the Burroughs curriculum is already pretty challenging in terms of pacing and testing. For example, in science accelerated classes, I can’t imagine squeezing in any more information within that one year, but it seems possible to take an AP science senior year when you already have that foundation.”

While I do not believe students need any more work than we already have right now, at the same time, I believe that we should be given the choice to take AP courses, perhaps one class per grade for each subject. For the students who are aiming to take the AP test, like how the Accelerated courses help prepare for the Subject SAT, these classes should be offered so they feel better prepared. At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that courses at Burroughs are challenging enough to prepare for the test by themselves.