AP summer assignments change aims to better prepare students

Hannah Jane DeCiutiis

     Summer assignments have always been a formidable enemy to the joy and relaxation of a high school student’s summer vacation, especially those assignments that involve heavy amounts of reading. The summer homework for each class has become routine and predictable, up until recently.

     Previous AP English III students were required to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. This past summer, however, the assignment was altered to better fit the needs of students taking the AP exam.

     “Though [The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn] is an American classic of great literary importance, having it as a summer assignment in a course which focuses more heavily on non-fiction didn’t seem all that in sync with the goals of AP III,” said Shelley Bramlett, AP English III teacher.

     From the students’ point of view, the switch from reading a fiction novel to the analysis of various media is not a difficult one. Students who took the course last year found the novel to be beneficial and did not complain about any hindrances on the exam, and yet students who analyzed media pieces this summer appear confident about their prospective grades for the exam.

     “I felt that reading [The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn] was beneficial to the course as well as the AP test because it provided examples that I remember referring to in essays for the AP exam. Analyzing various pieces of media may help students on the compare/contrast essay and on the rhetorical analysis essay, but overall I don’t think the media pieces will help much relative to the degree which summer reading assignments helped,” said Will Gravely, senior.

     “We were doing more analysis which shows up a lot on the AP test, so that better prepares us for the test than reading a fictional story,” said Lara Laake-Emery, junior, in contrast to Gravely’s statement.

     The subject of summer homework is uncomfortable for students in general, considering the habit of signing up for a class, not completing the prerequisite work, and still expecting to excel in that course is not entirely unheard of in the student body.

     “Summer homework is a very touchy subject, but so long as it has a point and it is not too taxing, then summer work is fine. Students also need to remember that during the summer much of what they learn during the school year is forgotten and the summer reading helps to keep the progress made during the previous year from being wasted,” said Gravely.

     Teachers see a correlation, albeit a slight one, between those who excel in their courses and those who don’t relative to completing the summer work in a satisfactory manner. It is a logical conclusion that a student who diligently works on the required assignments over the summer will have the upper hand over those who shirk on their summer assignments.

     “It is common though not an absolute. Generally speaking, the effort one puts in to summer work is a fairly good barometer of the commitment one will have to the rest of the course. However, sometimes students who, for various reasons, choke on the summer assignment make sincere, successful efforts to turn things around. I don’t think one assignment should be the “gatekeeper” which decides whether or not a student should stay in AP,” Bramlett said.

     So even though opinions may differ on the assignment itself, the ultimate purpose of summer assignments is to prepare students for the upcoming class, not to diminish summer fun.