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Task Force Studies How AP Course Load Affects Students' Stress

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Getting into college can be competitive. So, local school districts try to give their students an edge by offering Advanced Placement courses.

AP courses can count as college credit. More than 90 percent of high-schoolers in Chapel Hill take the classes.

The numbers are much lower in Wake County, where fewer than 32 percent of students are showing interest.

County officials want to boost that number. But they may want to look West before growing the AP program too much.

Chapel Hill school leaders wonder if too many AP classes taken at a time affect a student's quality of life.

Cathy Moore, principal at Raleigh's Sanderson High School, was part of a task force to examine why participation in AP classes is low in Wake County.

"We need to have a handle on identifying kids early enough to be fed into these programs," Moore said. "But we also need to have other options available, so if students don't decide that year, they have an avenue as well."

The AP task force discovered that students were wary of taking the classes for fear they will not do well.

Students also might not even know about them. Although the classes are not discouraged in schools, they may not be encouraged, either.

The situation is just the opposite in Chapel Hill. So many students are signing up that the district considered limiting the number of AP classes a student could take.

Some administrators are concerned about the added stress of the extra workload.

"If you are taking five AP courses, which is something our kids struggle with, you have to read and read and read," East Chapel Hill High School Principal David Thaden said, "and it's hard to get that fun thing in."

Sanderson student Joey Corlis has five AP classes on his resume.

"Colleges think it's important that you can handle yourself and handle the challenges, so you are better prepared to handle them in college," Corlis said. "And I like to learn as much as I can in any sort of subject."

Chapel Hill will recommend Thursday not to set a limit. Wake County, meanwhile, will encourage more kids to take the PSAT so educators can use the results to find students who can succeed in AP classes.

Wake County has another concern: They fear some students do not take AP classes because they have to take an exam to get college credit. The test costs $80.

Wake County and Chapel Hill each offer assistance for those who cannot afford the cost of the test. But Wake County leaders want to do a better job of getting that word out.

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