AP Biology and AP Economics were added to the CVHS course selection this year, in what will be a boon for students looking to challenge themselves while earning college credits. Both classes have been on the table for a few years now, and have finally been launched due to the efforts of David Roth-Rossi, who teaches AP Economics, and Robert Patrick and Ashley Green, who teach AP Biology.
Patrick said offering AP Biology will help CVHS continue to be competitive as a high school. The science department also wished to get rid of what it saw as excess tracking in the freshman sciences; many students who had already completed Algebra 1, the only admission requirement for Biology, were unnecessarily being tracked into Environmental Science. Meanwhile, other students were being divided up into regular Biology and Honors Biology.
With the introduction of AP Biology, all incoming students are required to take regular Biology their freshman year. They will also have to take Chemistry as a prerequisite if they want to be considered for AP Biology. The Environmental Science class has been eliminated.
The new AP Biology course standards have done much to improve the class, both for teachers and students. While the old standards were broad, unfocused, and unnecessarily centered on rote memorization, the new standards give teachers a specific set of learning objectives. They are focused on giving students a solid conceptual understanding of the subject material and allowing them to apply that understanding towards unique problems.
“There’s a lot more freedom,” Patrick said. “It allows the teacher to be the expert.”
AP Biology is highly lab based, with students performing labs and activities two to three times a week. The workload can be straining, but the upside is getting to participate in an interactive experience that mirrors the scientific process.
The best part about teaching the class, Patrick says, is “Being able to see the learning process happen without me being the talking head. It’s them learning the process of science … Instead of, ‘Sit in the desk and here’s a book,’ now it’s, ‘Sit in the desk, here’s a book, and now let’s go do it for real.’”
AP Economics, a year long class, poses a challenge for seniors who would normally take one semester of Government and one semester of Economics, both graduation requirements. One of the most popular ways of dealing with this scheduling issue is to take Government over the summer. Senior Ben Mok took a different approach; he chose to add a seventh period to his schedule for one semester to accommodate his Government class.
Roth-Rossi, who is currently the only AP Economics teacher, described the class as covering five times the material and going two times more in depth than regular Economics.
“It’s college prep,” he said. “So you’re expected to read college texts and actually take something away from it.”
Indeed, it is structured much like a college class, utilizing lectures, weekly quizzes, and tests, with homework assigned once a week. However, Roth-Rossi notes, “I’m not a super heavy workload guy … the book might have 100 questions, but if I don’t think you’re going to benefit from it, I’m not going to give you busy work.”
Minimal mathematical background is required to take the class; students who did well in Algebra 2 shouldn’t have any trouble with AP Economics. Students who enjoy problem solving and geometrical puzzles will especially like the class, according to Roth-Rossi.
Regardless of background, Roth-Rossi argues that a solid basis in economics is critical to understanding politics.
“Ninety percent of politics is economic issues,” he said. “So if you don’t know economics, what do you know? If you don’t understand Keynesian theory, if you don’t understand demand science and supply side tax policies, if you don’t understand these concepts … how do you know who to vote for?”
Roth-Rossi says that viewing political issues from the standpoint of behavioral economics can enlighten us to the morality of these issues and the ultimate effect of their resultant policies on society.
“Economics is a fantastic major; it’s something everybody should know about,” he said. Now that AP Economics is on the school’s curriculum, everybody can. All they have to do is apply for the class.