For most classes, it doesn’t matter that our school starts relatively late. As long as the entire curriculum and test timeline is shifted appropriately, students are at no disadvantage.
However, for AP classes this is not the case. Unlike other tests that can be scheduled to fit our school’s calendar, the AP exams are fixed for schools across the nation.
Therefore, when we start school later than other schools, we’re losing precious weeks before the AP exams.
So if the current calendar puts AP students at a disadvantage and non-AP students at no advantage nor disadvantage, the obvious question is “Why haven’t we changed the calendar?”
High-school teachers were told that the reason the school never made the shift was because the lower-school teachers were adamantly against it.
However, upon investigation by the Octagon, it seems that lower-school teachers’ feelings are mixed.
So why not make the change? Even one extra week would do a world of good for heavily content-based courses.
AP Physics C, for example, covers about two high-school years of material in one. At SCDS all of AP Physics C Mechanics is covered, but students who wish to also take the AP Physics C Electricity and Magnetism exam must self-study about a fourth of the material.
Our AP courses are excellent, no doubt – teachers consistently churn out high scores without teaching to the tests – but there’s really no reason to put ourselves at a time disadvantage. We’re needlessly selling ourselves short and letting students from other schools have a preventable edge over us.
Even for AP classes that are not as pressed for time, an extra week of review wouldn’t hurt. And for non-AP classes, a shift in the school year should make absolutely no difference.
The few arguments against starting a week earlier reference summer vacation.
One concern is that if the school decided made the switch, the first summer would be one week short. However, this is a short-term problem that, if overcome, would grant long-term benefits.
Another, the one brought up by lower school, is that there will be less time for lower-school teachers to purchase and set up classroom supplies. This is a valid drawback – but our missing week is also a drawback.
If sacrifices will be made either way, it seems logical to favor the many over the few. If just a few lower-school teachers adjust their schedules to expedite their classroom preparations, many high-school students and teachers will benefit.
A nice thing about the late start is that summer programs rarely conflict with the start of school. However, we begin so late that starting a week earlier would hardly add to the number of conflicting summer programs.
The school also benefits from starting late because it allows time for students who started at other schools to seamlessly transfer in. But making transferring easier is a poor reason to put the high school at an academic disadvantage. And so few students transfer that even if the late start really is helpful to them, it should not take priority over the needs of the rest of the student body.
It’s not like this is a difficult thing to amend – we already have great courses, which is the hard part. Why constrict our time?
And, for the record, there’s nothing more miserable than spending that last week of school taking finals in the sweltering gym while students from other schools are relaxing beside the pool.