Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 3, 2023


Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:03 am

At the start of the February 14th School Board meeting there was a set of parents that spoke under non agenda public comment about Advanced Placement classes at Alameda High School. One of the main concerns they had beef with was the over enrollment of AP classes at Alameda High which necessitated a culling of sorts to determine which kids would get those coveted AP slots and which would not.

For those that may have forgotten or this didn’t apply at your school AP classes lend three advantages to students (1) the more rigorous academics give students a taste of college coursework, (2) the ability to take the AP exam and — if they pass — some schools will accept these for college credit, and (3) grade bump. The grade bump thing is how you see kids with weighted grade averages above 4.0. The idea is that the coursework is so much more difficult than a non AP class that a student’s grade average should reflect that rigor.

So these parents were upset because at Alameda High it sounded like students were selected at random (if they had signed up for the class) to fill the overenrolled AP classes which meant that some students did not get the advantage of that class. They were asking for the District to come up with another way for overenrolled AP classes to be filled. I recall this also being an issue at Encinal last year with AP World History. There were only two AP World History classes being offered, more kids wanted in, some kids didn’t get in.

Recently I learned that to get into some electives at Encinal you have to have another teacher provide a recommendation for you to attest that you have strong writing skills. It seems like if were holding this standard for an elective, the very least we could do would be to have this basic hurdle for an AP class if we need some way to thin out the demand for AP classes.

So here’s the scenario apparently when it came time to sign up for text years classes this year’s freshmen (rising sophomores) were told that Encinal would no longer be offering an AP World History class. What would be offered instead would be an advisory period where students who wanted to take the AP test could attend and then be given the tools to work toward passing the AP test. There’s a complicated bit of miscommunication where kids were told that this was a District level decision but when it turned out the Alameda High would still be offering AP World History for 2023-24 that was no longer the messaging. The advisory class, which would be a lesser class than a full AP World History class, would not be the full rigorous AP class nor would it lend the grade bump that Alameda High kids would continue to get. If this is an issue of funding or finding a teacher to offer the same class at Encinal then absolutely the District should step in. But it does seem odd that Encinal was able to offer two AP World History classes for 2021-22, FOUR classes for 2023-23, but now wants to offer zero for 2023-24.

Arguably we should be offering as many AP classes to as many students that want to take the class but Encinal has decided on another way and, I’m hoping, that someone at the School District will see that the current decision of Encinal feels like a downgrade given that their decision is not a district mandate. While colleges will look at what your school has on offer to determine how rigorous your academic were given your options it is very hard to explain away that while your school did offer AP World History for the 2022-23 school year it TOTALLY makes sense why they stopped offering it for 2023-24.

If Encinal is somehow not able to offer this AP class then this should spur the district towards that coordinated bell schedule so that, perhaps, students from Encinal could be offered the AP option at Alameda High instead. In these hyper competitive times to get into the UC system where the average weighted GPA for admitted students for some schools is above 4.1, we’re doing a disservice to our Encinal students by kneecapping them against other students in the same district.


  1. Trying to read between the lines, but what it tells me is that kids lacked the writing skills to successfully complete the class. Failing to prepare kids is not “equitable.”

    Taking an AP class is one thing-passing the class with a score of 3,4 or 5 is much better, with many colleges not accepting a “3” for college credit. What is the participation rate ( 60 students take the class and 50 students take the exam) and the EHS pass rate for AP World? The National pass rate is about 60%. I’m guessing a low percentage of students take the exam and fewer pass.

    A better approach is to ramp up writing skills in middle school and freshman year, not hope that a magical soph advisory class will help.

    Comment by AP Vet — March 3, 2023 @ 7:19 am

  2. Call me retrograde, but I do not believe in grade bumps/weighted grades for taking AP classes. I think it’s great to take them if they are available & take the test to possibly earn college credit, but like the SAT it’s another driver of inequity and pressure-cooker stress for students. In the 1980s, a student with a 3.5-3.8 GPA looked pretty good to the UC system, and plenty were admitted in that range; then again, there were fewer AP classes to take in that era–my high school only offered two: English and Biology, and it was rare for a student to take both. But college admissions have been turned into an arms race that benefits few: the best test takers, students with wealth/college-educated parents, & in-demand athletes, mostly.

    Comment by Kristen — March 3, 2023 @ 9:38 am

  3. To me, AP classes make no sense. We put so much pressure on these kids. I think that the benefits are very questionable. They take all these AP classes and are loaded with enormous amounts of homework. No college professor would ever assign this level of busy work. The work load for a student taking multiple AP courses is beyond onerous. It cuts into sleep and creates unnecessary stress. The only thing that the kids get is the grade bump. This myth of college credit is just that. Most colleges that will give you credit for these high school AP classes won’t give you a grade or credit in the actually area of study and it comes out of your electives.

    Kids in Alameda would be far better served to just take the college level course at Alameda College and actually be able to transfer the course and grade to their future college (History, Calculus, English, etc).

    When I was a kid (I am in my 50s), I read about all the unecesary pressure that Japanese students were subjected to starting in kindergarten and grammar school. We have adopted that same model and our kids are suffering the same ridiculous stress.

    I am someone who values education and hard work. I graduated from UC Berkeley. I went on to get a doctoral degree. I think that our current education system unfortunately is less about learning and the love of learning and growth. It is about competition, competition, competition with all the attendant negative side effects.

    I am glad I grew up in a different era

    Comment by JohnB — March 3, 2023 @ 1:03 pm

    • Agree 100% JohnB

      Comment by saraholaes1 — March 3, 2023 @ 3:28 pm

    • Agree 100%. End all AP classes. And, I find it highly suspicious that Encinal, the “lower” high school, is the one cancelling.

      Comment by Eric Strimling — March 3, 2023 @ 5:21 pm

    • Maybe, at least for some kids, taking advanced courses can be a good thing. High school is the right time to let kids follow their interests and start allowing faster learners the opportunity to learn more.

      My kids took AP classes they enjoyed. One had wanted to be a scientist from a very early age after taking summer courses at Lawrence Hall. She was eager to take AP science classes. Beyond that, we encouraged them to take as many AP courses as they could handle. What they got was not just a “grade bump.” They had the opportunity to be challenged and they learned more. With college credit covering some required college credits, they had more flexibility to take courses they wanted in college. It helped one to graduate in 3 years.

      Comment by AP can be a good thing — March 4, 2023 @ 7:59 am

  4. AP classes are here to stay. The question is how to make them accessible to students at Encinal.

    If Encinal has fewer AP classes, its students will be at a disadvantage in a highly, highly competitive UC system. I know many 4.1+ GPA students who are attending college outside of California because they couldn’t get into the upper 2/3 of the UC campuses.

    My high school from 40 years ago had an AP equivalent, which I unintentionally took for six classes. Those classes counted for more than a semester’s worth of college, which allowed me to graduate a semester early. As I was the oldest of five children, four of which needed student loans to graduate, the half year’s savings was appreciated. With college costing about 7x more than when I attended, the AP has become never more important.

    Comment by Larry Witte — March 5, 2023 @ 7:20 am

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