One Baltimore Principal Saw Her Students Getting Over-Stressed. So She Took Dramatic Action

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It’s no secret that today’s high school students are under massive amounts of pressure to perform. While everyone agrees that stress levels are awful — and that they contribute to things like cheating and other bad behavior — no one seems to be able to agree on what we should do about it. Faced with an increasingly anxious student body, one Baltimore County principal decided to take matters into her own hands.

At Dulaney High School, students will now have to get special permission if they want to enroll in more than five Advanced Placement classes at one time. “As an administrator I definitely have a concern,” Principal Lynda Whitlock told the Baltimore Sun. “We are looking out for their total well-being. We don’t want anyone taking more than they can handle.”

AP classes were originally intended as special, college-level supplements to the regular high school diet. But as the college application process has gotten more and more rigorous, students feel pressure–either from peers, parents, or themselves–to make their transcript as stellar as possible. In many cases, that involves piling on the AP classes, with some students taking a dozen or more during their high school career. That kind of workload can easily lead to burnout.

Of course, the internet is chock full of overachieving students encouraging their peers to “fill every potential slot with an AP class,” or bragging about supplementing their total with self-study classes. College admissions directors who tell students to take “at least two or three” AP classes per year aren’t necessarily helping matters either; savvy students (and anxious parents) read something like that, and figure they might as well take five or six classes to stand out from the pack.

In part because that kind of pressure is hard to fight back, Dulaney isn’t instituting a hard limit on AP-heavy schedules–they’re just making sure students and parents know what they’re getting into. Any student who wants to take more than 5 APs at a time while meet with school counselors, have a conference with Principal Whitlock, and have to get parental permission. Dulaney’s system models those found in other schools across the nation.

Will that help alleviate the pressure, or will students just get their permission slips signed and keep stocking their schedule with AP courses? Time will tell.

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