AP classes are difficult. There’s a lot of material to cover in preparation for AP exams, and our school has less time before exams than most.
But imagine if instead of meeting every day, class met every other day. Three times per week sometimes, two times per week most times. Imagine trying to learn the material for AP Biology or AP European History in just over half the time.
No AP teacher would want to subject their class to that sort of schedule.
Yet that’s the schedule our electives – including AP Studio Art – currently face. Granted, electives do have longer 70-minute blocks, but those 70 minutes are often reduced to 60 or even 55 minutes due to lateness from lunch and the extensive set-up and clean-up some electives involve.
AP Studio Art teacher Patricia Kelly has expressed her discontent with the situation – both the unaccommodating schedule and the general lack of respect for electives.
And band teacher Bob Ratcliff said that he would like to teach AP Music Theory, but is fearful of starting an AP class during the elective slot for the same reasons.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done about the schedule. To begin with, the fine arts department must coordinate its schedule with the lower and middle school. Thus, it’d be impossible to pull AP Studio Art and the potential AP Music Theory into the core rotation.
But even if that were possible, having music and art in the core rotation would reduce the number of participating students. As it stands, one of the arts department’s biggest frustrations is the lack of students, so that “solution” would only exacerbate an existing problem.
Another consideration is to make the fine arts electives daily – for example, AP Studio Art could be taught every day, ignoring the alternating elective schedule. However, not only would that not work with the teachers’ schedules (Kelly teaches a different art class in the other elective), but it would also backfire in the same manner as the previous proposal. Students who want to take multiple electives would be discouraged from joining, and the arts would lose even more of them.
A last consideration is to change the schedule completely. An alternating block schedule, for instance – four classes one day, four different classes the next – might eliminate the problem. However, the majority of the school opposes changing the schedule so drastically. Also, unforeseen problems could arise with the scheduling of other classes.
In short, every possible schedule change is either infeasible or would end up hurting the arts more than helping.
But the other problem Kelly and Ratcliff mentioned is something that we as a community can fix.
Students and parents alike do not give the fine arts electives the respect they deserve. Students will often show up late or volunteer their elective period as a time to make up tests for other classes. Parents tell their students not to prioritize electives outside of school, simply because electives don’t factor into the school GPA.
Because of this attitude, AP Studio Art is a constant struggle, band and orchestra don’t perform to their full potential and AP Music Theory probably won’t happen.
Because the schedule can’t be amended, it’s important that the community reform the way it views electives. The arts – especially the AP’s – shouldn’t be treated as inferior classes just because they happen to be in the elective slot.