AP Physics Becomes Two-Year Course

Danielle Sugrue, Managing Editor

Due to a change in the College Board standards, PCS’s AP Physics class will become two 1-year courses – AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 – taught by science teachers Lisa Michael and John Wright starting in the 2015-2016 school year.

Although its curriculum will be designed collaboratively, Mr. Wright will primarily teach the first year, and Ms. Michael, the second.

“Looking at the success of [Ms. Michael’s] students, it is obvious that she has developed a very effective course. I am lucky to work with someone who is so knowledgeable and experienced,” Mr. Wright said.

“I really enjoy collaborating with other teachers in general, and I particularly like it when it’s collaborating about Physics — it’s a great opportunity to bounce your thoughts off of someone else who thinks about your subject as much as you do,” Ms. Michael said.

The College Board decided that as of Fall 2014, PCS’s existing AP Physics B course, offered biennially by Ms. Michael, would be replaced by both AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2.

On its website, the College Board explains: “This redesign of Physics B is a reflection of our commitment to continually enhance AP’s alignment with current best practices in college-level learning.”

“I’ve been teaching AP Physics for about 25 years. I’ve taught both AP Physics B and C. During that time I haven’t seen any curriculum change nearly as huge as the change that’s happening now,” Ms. Michael said.

Students will have the choice to take the first year and not the second, but Ms. Michael recommends taking both years.

“My chief concern about the two-year course is that some students will stop after one year who really need both years. If you’re going on in Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, Architecture and a few other majors I’m not thinking of right now, you really need both years or you’ll struggle a lot in your intro Physics classes in college,” Ms. Michael said.

Students also have the option of not enrolling in Conceptual Physics as a prerequisite to AP Physics 1 and 2.

“The plan and the recommendation of the College Board is that students will take AP Physics 1 before AP Physics 2. This year we have a group of approximately 15 students who have skipped Conceptual Physics and gone straight to Chemistry. These students plan to take both AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2,” Ms. Michael said.

AP Physics B is notorious for its heavy workload. Due to the longer course, the pace of the class should be more manageable.

“The workload should be less oppressive in the two-year course, compared to the one-year course. The one year course required a feverish pace (of delivery and assignments) to do even a passable job with the required material. I look forward to teaching a rigorous course but at a pace which is more user friendly for everybody,” Ms. Michael said.

Now that AP Physics is twice as long, the College Board has tweaked its standards for the course.

“The Mechanics unit has had a significant rotation section added by the College Board. Other than that I plan to flesh out the other units with more detailed problem solving sessions and more labs,” said Ms. Michael.

After each year of AP Physics, students will have the option to take an AP test. “Students take an AP test at the end of each course – so they take one test at the end of AP Physics 1 and another test at the end of AP Physics 2,” Ms. Michael said.

Now that Ms. Michael and Mr. Wright will be teaching AP Physics, there may be changes as to who will be teaching Conceptual Physics. As for now, they are not sure how they will split up the Conceptual Physics periods.

“We are still waiting to see enrollment numbers before we plan on who teaches what. I expect it will change year to year,” Mr. Wright said. “My expectations for this course are very high; I know I will need to dedicate a lot of time, thought, and energy to planning this course before I am satisfied.”