By Dakota An
Classes of juniors are seeking justice in the Law and Society major.
All Law and Society (LAS) juniors are required to take a double period of AP U.S. History and one period of AP U.S. Government and Politics. However, only one of the two periods of AP U.S. History is weighted on the report card, as the second period is referred to as Western Political Thought, and is thus not counted as an AP class. Furthermore, AP U.S. Government and Politics becomes Constitutional Law during the spring term, and is no longer weighted.
Although these classes may have different names on students’ schedules, they are still essentially the same courses.
LAS students are puzzled as to why they are doing rigorous, AP-level work, but are only receiving credit for a regular course. Junior Class Treasurer and LAS student River Bunkley ’14 finds this policy unfair.
“I feel as though Western Political Thought should be weighted because we’re being taught AP U.S. History, not Western Political Thought. AP U.S. History is an AP class with AP level material and since that’s what both periods are covering, both periods should be weighted.”
Bunkley feels the same way about Constitutional Law, as students are still being taught AP level material, reading from an AP Government textbook, and preparing for the AP exam in May.
Bunkley has brought these issues up in SGO meetings, where he was told to organize a proposal explaining his concerns. The real question remains whether it is within students’ power to change this policy. Bunkley noted that the main obstacle he faces is finding a way to meet with Principal Randy Asher and to convey the widespread concern.
He is also interested in gaining support from the major’s teachers. “The LAS teachers are really understanding and easy to work with, so I’m hoping if nothing officially can be done, we can talk to the teachers and work out an agreement.”
Another Law and Society junior, Infither Chowdhury ‘14, says, “I think it’s completely unfair how we don’t get AP U.S. double weighted, especially when sciences are double weighted. [I] don’t really understand how that’s even fair. The Con Law issue is even worse, especially with Mr. Schmidt teaching more difficult material and making the class more difficult; the no weighting is hurting us.”
Jack Killcoyne ’14 believes that the lack of weighting for the class is unwarranted, and is unnecessarily hurting the grades of the students.
“The curriculum that we learn when it is no longer an AP class is information that will be tested on the AP. Nothing changed about the class besides the weight.”
To change current grading policies, Killcoyne ‘14 says that he would petition the administration with support from parents, who he believes hold a great deal of sway in Tech policies.
Recently, the LAS AP Government/Constitutional Law classes held elections for class presidents, who will work with teacher Peter Schmidt-Nowara and help voice student opinions.
Killcoyne ’14 was elected his class’ president and has stated that if no official measures are taken to weight the class, he will attempt to pass legislation to help students’ grades, such as making assessments worth 1.1, creating a similar effect as the class being weighted.
Schmidt has stated that he is open to allowing weights on AP material, such as exams, if class amendments call for it. Homework and class conduct, however, would not be included in the weighted categories.
Despite this, he does not believe in weighted classes. As a high school student, Schmidt did not have any and feels that, “Being in an AP class is a privilege and opportunity to gain college credit.”
However, Schmidt acknowledged that if the class was weighted in the Fall term, it should be weighted in the Spring term as well, since he is teaching the same level of material.
Despite this, Schmidt will not be joining students’ protest, saying it is not his battle to fight. Rather, he believes it is the task of concerned parents and students. He feels that the administration would be more responsive to mobilized parents.
David Newman, the Assistant Principal of Social Studies, pointed out that in most other schools, AP U.S. History is only a single class; Western Political Thought was not meant to be added as another period of AP U.S. history. Instead, it was supposed to be a supplemental class to enrich the curriculum. Similarly , Newman stated that he sees AP U.S. Government and Politics and Constitutional Law as two separate courses.
“Although it might weave into AP Government, it is a standalone class,” said Newman.
He also stated that Brooklyn Tech is the only specialized school to offer weighted grades. The downside of this, according to Newman, is that students will enroll in AP classes for a way to increase their GPA, rather than out of their interest to learn.
While Newman said that he is uncomfortable with allowing a ten percent weight for both courses, he is open to having the two classes categorized as honors if students meet certain requirements.
“We’re trying to experiment and find a way to maximize learning potential,” said Newman.
He plans to talk with students, teachers, and Principal Asher regarding these honors classes, which would be weighted by five percent.
“Any who choose to do an extra project or paper, or anything above and beyond, would get the five percent.” Newman mentioned that he would potentially grade these projects to help determine who receives the honors recognition.
This issue has surfaced repeatedly in the Law and Society major, and as a result, the administration is responding. While a compromise is yet to be reached, Newman has said that he is “in talks” with the principal.