Latino voices shout for transparency: AP Spanish receives long-awaited attention


Design by Avery Rosas

Spanish-speaking students have called for a change in the consideration they receive regarding placement in Spanish classes.

Avery Rosas, Editor-in-Chief

This article was conceived devoid of any influence from staff or faculty and should not be interpreted as containing any of such.


Slumped into the curves of the chair, minds wandering aimlessly from the back of the classroom, lessons on Spanish verb conjugations and colors of the rainbow bounce from the ears of Spanish speakers and echo back into the abyss – they know they shouldn’t be there, and so do the teachers.

Immediately after the AP Spanish exam had ended, students of all grades who had taken the class, especially Spanish speaking students, began to cultivate a common trend that they noticed amongst themselves.

To preface, many if not all of the Spanish speaking students were juniors who had taken a placement test to skip at least one year of a language – a definitive entirety of them would have preferred to advance sooner.

This commonality,  characterized mainly by those scornful underclassmen, was that of their experiences in Spanish classes and the school placement system leading up to their time spent in the AP Spanish 4 class; they were hardly pleasant experiences.

“I took the [placement] test and I passed it, but the papers never got sent here or something happened with the counselor, I don’t know,” said junior Genesse Dimas. “But never was I placed at a higher level. I didn’t know that I could be placed in a higher level – I asked and they wouldn’t tell me anything.”

Senior Jirhe Guemez’s Spanish experience was enlightened by her arrival to AP Spanish in her junior year, when she met a sophomore in the same class and only then discovered that she could have taken a placement test to get even further ahead. Despite the fact that she indeed was able to skip a Spanish class, it cannot be attributed to a placement test – she was gifted a spot in Spanish 2 during her freshman year for scheduling mishaps.

“[Admin doesn’t] do a good job about just saying what’s going on,” said Guemez, whose beautiful Spanish allowed her to fly through AP Spanish the year prior. “…and I feel like if the district or if the counselors were to say that there is the Spanish placement test, just in case you do know Spanish – just because I know people that aren’t even Hispanic but they know Spanish – if they were told about this during when you choose your classes, that makes a bigger difference in everyone’s schedule.”

Such instances were not isolated to students who had been feigned by school transfers; in a report sent to the CVUSD school board just weeks ago, junior Caroline Schwartz emphatically voiced her experience with her Spanish classes and allowed all remaining AP Spanish students to do the same. Excerpts from the report show her experience with remaining uninformed about any placement test, including how “and even when I was, I was not allowed to be considered to move up to the next level.” (Schwartz) 

According to the teacher who had tested her, incorrect accent marks had corroborated the decision to prevent any movement to a higher level for Schwartz. In the conclusion of her personal recollections, she emphasized her belief that, “Latino students are not being served. The Latino students are being left out and are not being given the opportunities they deserve like all other students. This problem isn’t new nor is it one only I have gone through.” (Schwartz)

Students should not have to ask around and go teacher to teacher just to get the proper education they deserve. Placement tests should be announced and talked about more. Students must be informed.

— Caroline Schwartz

Schwartz’s comments were not left to stand alone – several other Latino and Spanish-speaking students commented on their perceived lack of urgency or attentiveness placed onto them by seemingly all school staff members in their experiences with Spanish classes; many of them had similar, frustrating things to say.

“I was never told about [the placement test.] I was never taught about AP Spanish. I had heard about it, but I was never told that I could take the class.” – Emily Zavala  (11)

“I transferred here my freshman year and I immediately got put into a Spanish one, even though I already knew Spanish, and I was gonna go to a different school, and I took a placement exam but it never transferred over and nothing ever happened. I was like whatever. I went through one and it was boring. I learned how to conjugate and I already knew how to do that. I knew how to spell, I knew how to understand it and everything pretty much.” – Lucia Farias (11)

“I had my sister [who] came here the year before I did and she was one that warned me about not being placed correctly because she had said that she wasted a year, because she didn’t know that she could place up. So she was one that motivated me to change to a higher level but I had to go to my counselor a few times before I was actually able to take the placement test.” – Lizeth Torres (10)

Several other students with whom I was unable to speak with shared their experiences, all of which remain consistent in their message.

“I would’ve never known that there was a placement test if it wasn’t for my older brother, who has never even attended this school. I took the placement test after weeks of insisting and was told that I could be moved to Spanish 3, but wouldn’t due to their new curriculum the following year. I was infuriated that I would have to take extra classes that I knew I didn’t need. The only reason that I didn’t get into AP Spanish is because I had misplaced accent marks, except accent marks don’t dock points in AP Spanish.”   – Selena Villafuerte (10)

“My freshman year I attempted to get into a higher level class seeing as I already spoke Spanish fluently at home my entire life, but they ended up placing me in a level 1 Spanish class and I was stuck there for the entire year.” – Sophia Torres (11)

A final, striking perspective was that of Ismael Rivera, a Mexican-born student who, after living the first 14 years of his life in Mexico, came to Ayala and dealt with the same tumults, if not worse. 

Rivera explained how he was put in Spanish 2 and how his teacher was not in school during his time in the class, which meant that an unsuspecting substitute did not have the power to help him advance nor did they bother to do so in the first place. For this, he took it to his counselor for help; unfortunately, this would prove to be counterintuitive in itself.

“My counselor told me that she was going to have to put me [in Spanish 2], even though it seemed unfair to me because, knowing my past, that I lived in Mexico for 14 years, and I barely arrived here in the United States,” said Rivera. “…I was taking ELD class and all of that, I don’t know why they didn’t want me to, or at least give me an opportunity to take [Spanish] 4 AP. They never told me anything. They just said, ‘Take Spanish 2.’” [Translated from Spanish-conducted interview]

Students, mainly Latinos, have made it apparent that if there wasn’t an intentional proclivity against the services to their community, there have been enough disservices to warrant the unfiltered feedback they have given so far. Despite their desire to show that deprecation, students have also shown their solutions to the problem they’ve enlightened.

Several students commented on the fact that they weren’t asked about their Spanish proficiency before being placed in the lowest Spanish class, and several offered the solution of counselors asking students during registration about whether or not they’d like to take a placement test beforehand. This comes with questions and concerns about racial profiling, however, and is only one of a developing number of solutions being presented; the avoidance of this problem would be a more inefficient process of asking every incoming world language student about a possible placement test. 

Perhaps not a solution, but instead an avenue, has been taken by one of the students in order to bring the spotlight to AP Spanish in a different manner. Genesse Dimas, junior and club president of the brand new AP Spanish Tutoring Club, will be bringing her experience in the class and her Spanish speaking background.

“As I got to Spanish AP, it really motivated me [because] I always wanted to start my club on my own. My mom always motivated me to do that,” said Dimas, who connected her interest in AP Spanish and her new club with the frustrating amount of time it took to get there. “I feel like we would have made the idea of this club a lot sooner. Yeah. And it could have taken place and we could have been at a higher step from now.”

Even for many Spanish speakers who grew up speaking Spanish and being surrounded by their respective cultures, they all conceived a common notion about AP Spanish; this experience, in turn, was a favorable one for them.

“[AP Spanish] definitely enhanced my learning in the culture because now when I could go talk to my family, I kind of had something else to talk about, which was their culture, which is really interesting for me,” said Guemez. “I felt more knowledgeable in certain aspects of just Mexico, you know, and just learning about all the different countries because I do have some family friends from different countries in South America. So I thought it was really cool to kind of know their culture and stuff.”

Several other students went on the same tangents; lessons on culture and societal differences allowed a new look into not only the language these students spoke, but the origin and context into which they could apply the language. They mentioned loving the class not because they acquired new grammatical utilities, but because they found a newfound avenue for the expression of their culture and the similarities shared in their traditions; a class that, for most of them, was unfairly hindered and delayed.

The staff at Ayala have shown us an appreciative aptitude in tending to student needs, of showing school spirit, and of creating a positive environment for academic furtherance. Despite this, it has become the work of Latino students to use their voice and their passion to correct the injustices that they feel are being brought upon them. They’re working remarkably fast– they only have so much time left to spare.