LIVINGSTON, NJ – In response to concerns that the Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) recently expressed over the large number of students on the Advanced Placement (AP) waitlist this year, Livingston High School (LHS) Assistant Principal Bronawyn O’Leary prepared a thorough presentation for this week’s LBOE meeting on how the AP scheduling process works and how the work that is being conducted during the summer helps to minimize the waitlist.
O’Leary, who has handled the complexities of AP scheduling for the past two years, was joined by LHS Principal Mark Stern, who has previously been responsible for this task.
They explained that students gain exposure to the AP process and scheduling specifics in a variety of ways. The kick-off to AP scheduling season comes by way of an introduction letter (disseminated to students and posted to the website) that outlines the process for applying for AP courses.
Students then receive reminders through the “AM Wired” daily announcements, supervisor visits to classrooms, teacher announcements (as deadlines near) and communications in the LHS School Counseling newsletter. A course preview day where students can get a feel for the breadth of AP courses being offered and the nature of each further helps to familiarize candidates with the curriculum.
After all of these pieces are taken care of, a scheduling letter is sent to students to begin the process of one-on-one scheduling, which involves students sitting with their counselors to discuss the importance of balancing their schedules and the options that would be best suited for them. Those wishing to apply for an AP course are first cleared for eligibility by their counselor.
Applications are submitted through supervisors with a date and timestamp, and put into the queue in consecutive order.
“Our traditional scheduling process begins with outreach to families in December and continues with conversations with teachers, school counselors, parents and students into January,” said O’Leary. “The goal is to have students engage in a rigorous but balanced schedule, which may or may not include an AP course. Students must comply with the application process. If they’re unable to complete the process by the February deadline, students are placed on the AP waitlist.”
As schedules are formalized, waitlists for the most popular AP classes begin to form. These waitlists continue to remain open so that students who either miss the application deadline or decide later that they wish to apply for a course can still have the opportunity to include it in their fall schedule, availability permitting.
Once the application deadline has come and gone, schedulers begin the arduous task of reviewing and balancing the number of AP requests against the number of course sections that LHS can reasonably accommodate.
O’Leary then takes the lead on establishing the number of sections and moving the Genesis scheduling data forward into the Full Control Scheduler program. Full Control Scheduler allows caps on classes to be set and helps determine which periods can best accommodate the most students. By Memorial Day weekend, this task is completed and a snapshot of what the following year will look like is crystalized.
This provides the first opportunity for waitlist numbers to decrease. In June, counselors analyze schedules individually, looking for gaps and holes, and revisiting the waitlist to place as many students into AP classes as possible.
“Gaps and holes occur when it just didn’t work out,” said O’Leary. “For example, a student may select several AP classes which may be running as singleton classes that may conflict with one another, forcing the student to make a choice.”
From June 25 to Aug. 15, counselors look at schedule changes (with special attention paid to those who want to drop an AP class they applied for), balance class sizes and review AP courses for openings occurring throughout the summer.
“This is an opportune time to have conversations with kids, to call them and ensure they’re getting the best courses and selections for what their needs are,” said O’Leary.
According to O’Leary, there are many reasons why a student might choose to join a waitlist. Students might change their minds about certain courses, decide they have a new interest, prefer to explore something that colleges are recommending or requiring, or decide after the application deadline that they would like to try an AP course after all.
In fact, O’Leary said that some students are on multiple waitlists in the hopes that if their first choice doesn’t come through, they will get into their second or third choice course. It also gives students some wiggle room if an AP class doesn’t end up fitting their schedule, she added.
By the same token, O’Leary said there are also several reasons why students who have registered for an AP class might choose to drop it later on. For instance, they might need a better balance between their school and extracurricular schedules, fear that the class will be too difficult, feel that they do not need the class for college, have lost interest in it, or prefer taking a different class completely.
Upon further evaluation of waitlists for the upcoming year, O’Leary commented that AP Economics is a course where it’s feasible that an extra section could be opened.
The caps have been raised for AP Government and Politics to accommodate more students. AP Psychology has also seen its cap size slightly raised and two additional sections added, according to O’Leary. Already, more than half of those on the waitlist for the latter two courses have been called and offered the chance to enroll, she said.
More challenging is the heavily waitlisted AP Physics course, which carries with it a hard cap of 24 students for each section of science courses due to safety concerns and lab space limitations.
However, O’Learly reported that by the end of last summer, all students were spoken to and/or were enrolled and the waitlist numbers returned to zero.
“We’ve had waitlists for as long as we all can remember,” she said. “We work all summer long to make sure students are coming off the lists. We’re opening sections when we can. We increase the caps where we can do so without affecting the integrity of the class. As students are dropping, we are filling the spots.”