By Ebube Onwusika ’21, News Reporter
Advanced Placement courses have been a part of Mercersburg Academy’s curriculum for decades, but it has now been decided that the upcoming 2020-2021 school year will continue without them. AP courses are run by the College Board and aim to provide college credits, as well as challenging material, to advanced students. Mercersburg Academy currently offers AP courses in all subjects. As a result, the majority of students at Mercersburg Academy eventually take an AP course. Many in the community, students and faculty alike, are dicussing how the change will affect the school. They also seem to have strong opinions about the potential positive or negative outcomes.
Four-year senior Chioma Oparaji ’20 shared her thoughts on the change . “I’m used to schools with APs, and I’m interested to see how it turns out.” Other students expressed concern for what the change will mean for college applications and whether or not it will make certain colleges harder to get into.
Mercersburg Academy will still have advanced courses; they will simply no longer be associated with the AP Program. Students can still take AP exams; they may just no longer be taught according to the accompanying syllabi in their advanced classes. The school has assured families that the new courses, however, will still prepare students who still wish to take the AP exams.
Currently as many as four weeks are dedicated to prepping for AP exams, and Academic Dean Jennifer Smith mentioned that this time could be spent on even broader teaching elements that can be of more help to students in the long run. Science teacher Dave Holzwarth explained, “Teachers will still be of definite help to students, and the new format will enable courses to be designed to meet students’ needs. This will create flexibility in the curriculum so we can forge ahead with having students ready for college.” James Colwell ’20 stated, “This will help Mercersburg in designing its own curriculum.”
Although the AP Program has helped students demonstrate rigor in their schedules, Aidan Ferrin ’20, commented that “the experience is not really that necessary.” As for the qualms about college admissions, the school has promised to state clearly on transcripts the most advanced courses offered, and colleges are attracted to students who try to take challenging courses, not just AP. Andy Armbruster’21, added, “Advanced courses… set the standard… at Mercersburg.”
The reactions of twelfth graders, who will miss out on new curricular opportunity, and eleventh graders, who will not be able to take AP courses in their senior year, are mostly indifferent. This reaction is possibly due to the fact that they are equipped enough and knowledgeable about exactly what they want, which can be achieved with or without the AP Program.
It is encouraging to know that Mercersburg Academy’s academic culture is not dependent on Advanced Placement. The decision to move beyond AP was based on thoughtful thinking and research as well as the experiences of other schools who have implemented the same change.
The student body and faculty are optimistic, but only time will tell whether this change is optimum for Mercersburg Academy.