GBHS remains the AP powerhouse in school district

Students make the most of their variety of AP classes offered.



AP classes are popular at GBHS, some of them having classes with body counts of upwards of 30 students.

Advanced Placement appeals to students who want to be academically challenged or gain some college credit.

This is apparent to many Granite Bay High School families – more than 2,400 exams” were given at GBHS last year.

“More than half of (the student population) takes at least one AP course in their tenure here at GBHS,” AP coordinator Jill McKinney said.

While this is an impressive achievement on paper, the effects of these prominent numbers help students get into college and receive college credit.

“We have students that want to take AP classes, so the demand is there,” principal Jennifer Leighton said.

Offering 19 AP classes, the AP program at GBHS has grown from the meager couple of AP courses offered when the school opened more than 20 years ago. GBHS also offers a full plate of International Baccalaureate classes. 

This magnification of offered courses is aided in that school officials at GBHS have done their best to make AP and IB classes accessible to all.

The idea of having to take a pre-AP test to qualify to get into the AP program was once considered but then opposed by some teachers on campus.

“(Our) general philosophy (is) if kids want to take the challenge academically, let’s let them take the challenge,” said Brandon Dell’Orto, who teaches AP U.S. history.

This attitude toward academic challenges in the form of AP classes is influenced by more than just the school itself. The community surrounding GBHS plays a significant role in supporting the decision to take AP classes.

“It’s the perfect storm of motivated teachers and motivated students and motivated parents and families that want their kids to take all these AP classes,” Leighton said.

Parents play a major role in encouraging their children.

“We have a lot more parental expectations of students going to high-power colleges out of here,” Dell’Orto said.

One such student facing these expectations is junior Aarush Pattnaik.

“I take AP classes because it helps my chances (of) going to a good school,” Pattnaik said.“My parents pressure me to take AP classes because they want me to be successful.”

Such an atmosphere is at least partly the reason for the large number of AP classes taken at GBHS.

“(Students are) pushed to take more AP classes (at GBHS) than at other schools,” Dell’Orto said.

It isn’t just parent expectations, however, that are bringing in students who actively want to be in an AP-rich environment. Student expectations are there as well, and the prospect of AP class variety is attractive.

The AP classes were a deciding factor in my decision (to attend GBHS).

— Shreya Nagunuri

“I live in Folsom, so I was worried about the drive – and I was choosing between a lot of good schools, so I was always undecided,” said sophomore Shreya Nagunuri about her decision to attend GBHS. “The AP classes were a deciding factor in my decision (as) GBHS offered the most amount of APs in the area around me, and it offered the greatest variety of them as well.”

Despite the desirable advantages of these academically simulating courses, there are some downsides.

The classes that kids can get out of when they pass an AP test are the classes that (colleges) generally make a lot of money on.

— Brandon Dell'Orto

For one, students are loading themselves with AP classes that colleges might not accept.

“The simple fact of the matter is that colleges probably would rather not have any kids get AP credit when you view it from a purely business perspective,” Dell’Orto said. “The classes that kids can get out of when they pass an AP test are the classes that (colleges) generally make a lot of money on.”

“Many colleges are putting more limitations on (AP credits they’ll accept).”

College aren’t the only institutions considering limitations, as teachers at GBHS have discussed capping the number of AP courses students are allowed to take, according to McKinney.

Leighton said a maximum AP class limit is something worth talking about.

“We have a lot of stressed-out kids,” Leighton said. “There are some kids that can handle that rigorous of a schedule. They thrive on that, (but) there are other kids that get … overwhelmed when they have too much going on.”

Nevertheless, she acknowledged that some students do thrive on that kind of pressure.

Another issue with this sort of academic mentality is community perception of those who do or do not take AP classes.

“(AP) provides all of our students with so many options in regards to courses that may interest them,” McKinney said. “Yet, it also creates an invisible division among some of our student population.”

There’s an existing stigma at GBHS that is embedded in school culture around enrollment in AP classes versus the standard college preparatory classes.

“I believe there is a stigma around students who take fewer AP classes than their peers,” junior Raha Elahi said. “The academic environment is one that is extremely competitive. (This atmosphere) makes nonacademic students feel like outcasts in a school focused on (grade) inflation and college acceptances.”

Many students who choose not to take an AP/IB course feel like there is a stigma placed upon them.

— Jill McKinney

Students like Elahi are not the only ones aware of this mindset – school staff are conscious of this as well.

“Many students who choose not to take an AP/IB course feel like there is a stigma placed upon them,” McKinney said. “This is never the intent, but it is necessary for us as a faculty to gain insight into this matter so that the stigma is eradicated.”

It is possible, however, that this stigma is not as prevalent as it appears.

“I wouldn’t say it’s like a culture in Granite Bay as a whole, and it really depends on who you’re surrounded by,” senior Theo Tran said.

Nagunuri, the sophomore who is currently taking four AP classes, seemed to empathize with Tran’s perspective.

“I grew up with friends who always took AP classes, so it was always expected of me to take them as well when I got to high school,” Nagunuri said. “However, in the end it was my decision to take them and challenge myself.”

Like many other students at GBHS, she is being challenged, which is undoubtedly the point of the AP program.

“High school is the best place to learn the coping skills that you’re going to need for college and beyond,” Leighton said. “(AP allows students to be) better prepared for the rigors of college even if they don’t pass with flying colors or pass the final test.”