At the start of the 2021-22 CPS school year, school is finally back in-person after a little over a year of remote learning. For many students, this means hope that they can have a better year academically since many students reported having a rough time doing well in their classes last year.
According to the New York Times’ article “The Dangers of Failing Grades,” high school teachers in “high poverty high schools” were reportedly stressed on whether they should or shouldn’t fail all the students that did not pass their class. Students were struggling to keep their grades up during remote learning, and many weren’t encouraged to even do well or take certain classes.
Advanced Placement, AP, classes were not an exception to this. AP classes are offered at Hancock through the College Board as potential college-credit classes if students earn a passing score on the respective exam in May.
This year, Hancock had a significant drop of students taking an AP course this year. To many, this doesn’t seem like a surprise that the numbers went down drastically the first year back from remote learning and one of the most stressful and difficult years for students.
History teacher Darius Norvilas, who teaches AP US History, has noticed a huge decline in students taking his AP course this year. Last year during remote learning, Norvilas taught 4 AP classes with an average of 24 students per class. This year? He teaches one class with 22 students.
Norvilas stated he believes the pandemic did have something to do with this, but not in the way many of us expected or thought of. He says he felt that the lack of students seeing their friends and classmates and having to get teacher signatures to take AP courses led to students not really feeling encouraged to take them.
Hancock has a policy where any student who wants to take an AP course can.
“Normally what happens is students get their sheets and they get their signatures to say that they’re going to take AP, take AP Gov, take AP World,” Norvilas explained. “I don’t think there was that collective push amongst the student body where ‘oh, so and so is taking AP. I might wanna take it too!’ That’s reason one, for lack of a better word, peer pressure, GOOD peer pressure, amongst students to kind of encourage others to take an AP course.”
An analysis of AP enrollment at Hancock by the Signature found a major decline in students taking the many AP courses. Classes such as AP English Language count went down by 50% from the 2020-21 school year.
Norvilas stated that he is hopeful that by the 2022-23 school year, the numbers will go up again since most of us are now back to in-person learning and we will yet again be encouraged to take AP classes next year.
In past years, many juniors and seniors request a P.E. waiver to take another academic class instead of P.E. Not this year.
“My mental health was declining slowly so that's why by the end of it, I didn’t have a lot of motivation,” said Steffany Medrano, a junior at Hancock, when recalling her experience in an AP class during last year's remote learning experience.
Medrano says that the pandemic had a major part to play in her choice to not take AP classes this school year. She says that her recovery from the pandemic is still ongoing, especially with the stress of entering a new school year in person in a new building.
This idea of the pandemic affecting students negatively is further explained in an article called “How much harm comes from taking AP exams during a pandemic?” In the article, Pete Bavis says “The trauma of the pandemic, especially for disadvantaged students will outweigh any of the academic advantages of studying for AP.”
He believes that the stress and trauma of the pandemic was counterintuitive to students taking AP during last year's remote learning. He later continues his thought by saying, “The College Board’s insistence that this school year is normal has transformed the AP exam from an instrument of upward academic mobility to one of our students’ greatest mental-health risks and will negatively impact many of their transitions to college.” Bavis says that the pandemic had such a negative impact on students that the whole point of taking AP for educational and academic purposes will end up having the opposite effect on students.
Senior Omar Velazquez is taking both an AP class and P.E. class for different reasons. Velazquez says “AP is worth it for my future because I am going to pursue a field is psychology so AP Psychology is an important class for me.” Having a P.E class wakes him up both mentally and physically. He is taking another P.E class this year which is replacing his math class so he is currently taking two P.E classes. After remote learning, he decided not to take any other AP classes.
The increase in juniors and seniors taking P.E. required one of the P.E. teachers to teach another class. Blake Tomczak teaches six classes this year. Tomczak told the Signature, “I enjoy teaching the extra class. In particular, I like to stay moving. So having a period off with five classes will slow me down a little bit. I like to keep kind of a high pace throughout the day.” He says that even though he does have to teach an extra class, he was happy to hear that because he could get a chance teach more students. “I would teach every student if it was possible,” Tomczak shared.
At the end of 2019 and 2020 with an exception of hybrid learning at the end of 2020, all students were stuck in their homes having almost no exercise. In an article titled “Play as healing from pandemic trauma,” the author talks about how because of the pandemic and online learning, people stopped socializing with each other physically and verbally.
A “lack of socialization and lack of variety in our daily routines have all contributed to a decrease in memory and an increase in anxiety and depression,” the article states. When students exercise, they feel relieved and get a playful mindset which is important for class because they’ll be mentally awake might want to participate more. “Having a playful mindset helps us move toward having playful classrooms,” the article explains. Having that exercise class may make students feel less bored and more alive.
The Signature accepts student writing, photos, and art for publication. Contact Mr. Salazar, the journalism teacher, in room 316 during AC Lab or by email at rsalazar at cps dot edu.
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