Success of freshmen taking AP Human Geography should open path for incoming ninth-graders to take more rigorous courses like AP Literature and Composition or AP Biology


Art by contributing artist JungHyun Lee.

Jaden Hom

About 250 freshmen took the Advanced Placement Human Geography [AP HUG] exam on the second day of online testing from the College Board. Like other AP exams offered online as an adjustment to the COVID-19 pandemic that has led to stay-at-home orders worldwide, those taking the AP HUG test were given 45 minutes to answer two free-response questions with sub-assignments for each question (an extra five minutes was tacked on in case test-takers experienced WiFi/internet problems).

This was a historic moment for Sunny Hills, as the 2019-2020 school year was the first in which administrators opened up this AP class for incoming freshmen to take, replacing honors World History. 

While other campuses in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District had already started offering freshmen the chance to enroll in AP courses like AP HUG, Sunny Hills wisely took its time as over the previous years it had allowed a small number of freshmen to enroll in and take an AP test. For example, in the 2017-2018 school year, a ninth-grader who had extensive background in French was allowed to take the AP French class and subsequently the exam.  

While the results for the AP HUG exam will not be released until mid-July, the SH administration also deserves praise for opening up the AP HUG class to incoming freshmen; school officials should now consider opening up more AP opportunities for future incoming ninth-graders to suit their needs. 

Based on student discussions throughout the 2019-2020 school year — including one occasion during distance learning — most freshmen in AP HUG are not struggling in this class.

Social science teacher Robert Bradburn, who teaches four AP HUG classes this school year, has also made the same observation.

“I am very impressed with the ability of our freshmen this year,” Bradburn said. “Our freshmen are going to be challenged out of their comfort zones to grow and be the best they can be [from being enrolled in AP HUG].”

The Class of 2023 deserves commendation for setting the bar for future incoming students with only a few choosing to drop AP HUG after the fall semester.

This leads to the obvious question: If freshmen prove capable of taking such a rigorous class, then why not allow the next set of ninth-graders to take on more AP coursework?

Already, middle schools in the Fullerton School District are offering pre-AP English classes, with some of them like Parks Junior High School giving eighth-graders the chance to actually take the AP Language and Composition [AP LANG] exam. This school year, for example, nearly a handful of freshmen enrolling in English 1 Honors was among those who had already taken — and got a 3 or higher — on the AP LANG exam.

Unfortunately for them, school officials did not allow these freshmen to automatically move into the AP English Literature and Composition [AP LIT] class that’s reserved for seniors at the moment and that comes after the AP LANG class.

Nevertheless, it only makes sense in the future that as more and more students enter Sunny Hills having already scored a 3 or higher on AP LANG, they should be allowed to take AP LIT.

The main argument against this is that the middle school Pre-AP English class does not offer the same curriculum that a Sunny Hills AP LANG class covers. And just because incoming ninth-graders pass an AP LANG exam from the College Board doesn’t automatically guarantee those same pupils are adept at understanding and analyzing John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth — just some of the curriculum in ninth- and 10th-grade honors English classes. 

Though that may be true, school officials need to be prepared for the inevitable onslaught of incoming freshmen who will already have AP testing experience as the Fullerton School District middle schools fill up their pre-AP English or other subject courses in the next few years. They are already allowing math students to advance in levels as one eighth-grade Parks student has been taking Algebra II Honors here this school year. If he were to enroll at Sunny Hills this fall, he would be eligible to take AP Statistics [AP STAT] in his freshman year or AP Calculus AB his sophomore year. Within the next few years, it would no longer be an anomaly that a handful of students would have already taken an AP exam before entering high school.

So why not continue to up the ante and allow these students to enroll in the other AP subjects on campus?

Finally, the results of the 250 or so freshmen’s AP HUG exam should not be the measuring stick for the future because they did not take a normal 135-minute long test. The true standard will be based on this next crop of freshmen enrolled in AP HUG unless another wave of COVID-19 hits next spring. 

But that shouldn’t stop the conversation about expanding AP offerings for ninth-graders. Sunny Hills would definitely attract a lot more students if say by the 2022-2023 school year, a freshman’s schedule could look like this: AP HUG, AP LIT, AP STAT, AP Biology, AP Computer Science and … P.E.