Teaching to the Test | Avery Naughton

Over the past four years, I’ve taken my fair share of AP classes here at CCA. These classes have ranged from inspiring to dull to dreadfully difficult to manageable. However, a commonality that nearly everyone one of those classes share is that they are specifically taught to follow the guidelines of the AP test.

This statement doesn’t come as much of a shock. Schools’ and teachers’ performances are partially based off of their students pass rate on the AP test. Thus, it is only logical that teachers push their students to do well on the exams in May. Although I can understand the mindset behind the teaching styles, the notion of teaching students for the sole purpose of getting a good grade on one exam is, and has been for my time at CCA, a complete nuisance.

On the first day of most of my AP classes at CCA, I walk in to the room, sit down at a desk, and listen to the teacher go over the AP test standards. This lecture includes the time allotted for multiple choice and the number and types of essays that the all-important test ask you to complete come May. You are told to always keep in mind what percentage each unit is worth on the test and how to write a stereotypical thesis for a DBQ essay. You are told that questions follow different levels of difficulty. And thus, to prepare you for the test, your quizzes, tests, and essays will all be based off of the exam.

And for the most part, the teachers’ work pays off. On the days I’ve stepped into one of the Del Mar Fairgrounds enormous tents, I’ve felt relatively prepared and, more than anything, ready to never hear about the test again in my life. But at the end of the day, I don’t recall anything from these classes. I don’t remember engaging lectures or groundbreaking essay topics and am left with a bank of meaningless facts that are quickly forgotten after I bubble in my last answer.

My most memorable AP classes have been the select few classes that don’t revolve around the test. I don’t even think that those teachers mentioned the test except to inform us that it exists and we can take it if we choose. Both of these classes have been in the humanities, and instead of teaching me how to write an essay that will give me a 5 on the AP test they’ve taught me to leave the test standards behind and instead teach the material in more innovative and compelling ways. Lectures depend on the teachers’ ideas alone and lessons are covered depending on the time they truly deserve, not the proportions set up by the test. In those classes, you are allowed to create projects and read outside material, not the only Shakespeare play that the test deems important to know.

In those classes, I’ve not only learned more, but felt more prepared for my future in college. I don’t have to follow a formula and unite what I think an AP grader would like to read. But I am allowed to shape my own ideas and opinions. I understand the reasoning behind teaching to the AP test, but at the end of the day, these classes prove to be unfulfilling and pointless because no information ever stuck with me. As a matter of fact, the classes that don’t teach exactly to the test are the ones I’ve received my best scores on and felt most prepared for the test.

CCA needs more AP classes structured in a way not specifically designed to the AP test. They’re awful classes to take as a student, and as I’d presume, even worse to teach. We need to, in a sense, let the training wheels come off of AP classes and let students learn material in memorable ways that will not be forgotten after you exit the testing center.

Avery Naughton is the editor-in-chief of Pulse Magazine.