Opinion: AP Seminar and AP Research should be offered at Mill Valley for the 2023-2024 school year

Both classes help students develop research skills helpful for future AP classes and in college

Emma Clement, Mill Valley News editor-in-chief

As of now, Mill Valley offers honors and AP classes to help students in almost all areas of academics except advanced research. The classes AP Seminar and AP Research should be added to the course selection guide for the 2023-2024 school year to give students a chance to gain research skills.

AP Seminar and AP Research are two full year-long classes that are currently offered at De Soto High School (DHS). These classes offer a variety of educational benefits for students, as well as the AP Capstone Diploma when taken with four other AP classes. The AP Capstone Diploma program offers a distinction on college applications that show you committed to learning high level academic skills during high school.

According to the AP College Board website, AP Seminar helps students gain skills in the areas of research, collaboration, communication and time management. Students will “investigate topics in a variety of subject areas, write research-based essays, and design and give presentations both individually and as part of a team.”

By Julia Shumaker

In addition to gaining these skills, the classes also give students a chance to do in-depth learning on topics of their choice. DHS English teacher, Phil Hamilton, has taught AP Research for almost a year now and has seen a multitude of creative projects already.

“I have one person right now who designed a game using the Unity Engine to determine racial bias,” Hamilton said. “Another person is interested in dress codes and their effect on young women’s self esteem, so she’s surveying hundreds of middle and high school students about their experiences with dress code issues. Another person entirely is studying how the news is dealing with Afghan refugees and whether they use a more negative or positive connotation.”

While adding a class to a school schedule may seem like a complicated process, these steps have already been largely completed for AP Seminar and Research. The classes have been approved by the district, students know about them and are interested in taking the classes and the school already has a teacher willing and trained to teach this class.

Gifted facilitator Inga Kelly, completed the training course to teach both classes in the summer of 2020, the same time as Hamilton. Kelly even began work developing what the class could look like in our district. Additionally she has a background in communications and English.

“[Through coaching Speech and Debate] I have helped students with presentations and developing public speaking skills,” Kelly said. “As a Voyagers teacher, I’ve worked a lot with kids on open ended projects and project-based learning. I feel like AP Seminar, for me as an educator, utilizes and activates all of the skills that I really love.”

According to principal Dr. Gail Holder, some of the explanations for why the class is not being offered include inadequate staffing, new school administration, the pandemic, and the absence of  need for the class.

Many of these reasonings make complete sense under COVID-19 circumstances, but as the world moves forward we have found a new sense of normalcy. According to the CDC, already 82% of United States citizens above the age of five have received at least one vaccination.

Additionally, with the absence of new variants, COVID-19 cases are down so far in 2022. By 2023, many of these issues will not exist anymore and, if they do, we will be well adjusted to them and they should not pose a problem. 

Additionally, as the gifted facilitator, Kelly can see what classes her students signed up for, and 11 gifted students alone want to take the class in the 2022-2023 school year. In addition to these 11 students, a survey of 79 Mill Valley students showed that a large percentage of students themselves see a need for classes that teach research skills (see graphic for more information).

Though it may be too late to offer these classes starting in the 2022-2023 school year, it’s not too late for the 2023-2024 school year. AP Seminar and AP Research have a wide variety of benefits and should be greatly considered for the 2023-2024 school year.

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