Next Generation

AP, honors classes discussed tomorrow

By February 14, 2011

When it comes to advanced placement and honors classes, sometimes students bite off more than they can chew.
When students at Davis High School did that this year, they ran into some problems trying to rectify the situation: the non-AP classes they wanted to transfer into mid-year frequently were full.
In order to prevent similar problems next year — and just to make sure students are taking the courses that are right for them — teachers will hold an information meeting for parents tomorrow where they will lay out the content, expectations and requirements for AP and honors classes at the school. The meeting will take place Wednesday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the New Gym.
“It is important that students and parents understand the level of difficulty and amount of homework required in AP/honors classes prior to signing up for them,” counselors explained in the school newsletter last month.
The meeting comes on the heels of conversations about whether the school should actually limit the number of AP classes students may take each semester.
The consensus was “No,” according to Davis High science department chair Wayne Raymond, who headed a subcommittee that looked at the issue.
According to Raymond, the conversation began when Da Vinci High School counselor Carol Curinga brought up at a meeting her concerns about the stress she was seeing among students who had courseloads heavy with advanced placement and honors classes.
Raymond decided to survey his own students and found that of the 41 students in his honors physics classes, about two-thirds of them felt pressured to take AP or honors classes in order to compete and half felt “enormously pressured.”

The desire among colleges for high school students to take the most rigorous courseload possible induces students to load up on those advanced classes, which also gives their GPAs a boost, whether they’re equipped for the workload or not.

“I see it myself,” Raymond said. “I have students who are really struggling and look shellshocked.”
But he also sees a fair number of students at Davis High that can take a full load of AP classes and do just fine, so limiting their ability to do so probably won’t happen any time soon.
In fact, he said, when his students found out why he was surveying them, many wanted to change their answers so as not to contribute ammunition for a proposal to limit AP classes.
In addition to the stress level reported by students, Davis High also had noticed that many students who take AP classes and subsequent AP tests in the spring, opt out of STAR tests, which happen around the same time.
That, said Raymond, is not ideal for the high school.
“We don’t come off well,” he said, “and that’s one issue we’re trying to address. We want to strongly encourage students who take AP classes to take STAR tests.”
To that end, students may be asked to sign a contract regarding their willingness to take STAR tests. And in the meantime, an effort will be underway, both in the information meeting tomorrow night and in the upcoming course catalog students receive to better convey the level of work required for advanced classes.
“We’re going to better inform students of the time and effort required in AP classes,” Raymond said. “And at this point, we hope it may have the effect of reducing stress.”
Raymond said the subcommittee he chairs will continue to meet and he welcomes any interested parents and teachers. Contact him at [email protected]

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at (530) 747-8051 or [email protected] Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com.

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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