Wednesday, June 16, 2010
James Logan High School has done away with prerequisites to honors and AP classes and has enacted various other changes, effective the 2010-2011 school year. This includes giving summer homework for all AP classes (not just Language Arts) and the signing of a contract agreeing to take the AP exam in May, among other things. The administration claims that they are trying to diversify the AP program at Logan, but that may not necessarily be so.
I have been involved in accelerated classes since my freshman year at James Logan High School, and honors students in the Language Arts department have always been required to do summer reading and writing in order to keep them thinking. Incoming students from a regular-level English class have been required to not only do summer reading, but to have attained a certain grade in that regular class and to apply for entry into the honors program. Many believe that this is discriminatory, but this is necessary in order to deter people who are not truly serious about the honors/AP program.
Some changes have been implemented by the administration that I believe are beneficial to students. AP Chemistry is no longer offered at the sophomore level unless students attain a certain level on the placement test, which will now include some fundamental chemistry concepts. This is to ensure that students have a foundation for chemistry before entering. Students are encouraged to take the regular- or honors-level class as sophomores, and then enroll into the AP class as juniors or seniors. This system will be more beneficial to students than simply jumping into AP Chemistry and not understanding the basic ideas. As a sophomore, I was enrolled into AP Chemistry and struggled because I did not have the essential knowledge to succeed. In addition to being lost on the chemistry ideas, there were also some mathematical concepts that I had yet to learn but were important to apply in the class.
However, certain prerequisites have been done away with that I feel will only harm some students. Although the College Board requires that there be no prerequisites, in order to allow for diversity, Logan should strongly discourage students from taking AP classes without prior experience with the subject in order to ensure true preparedness for the workload. For example, there are no longer any requirements in order to take AP US History However, AP US History is a rigorous course in which students are expected to not only understand the facts of US history, but to also be able to analyze events and study independently. Students lacking either a passing grade in Honors World Studies (soon to be AP World History) or a high grade in regular World Studies will most likely be lost on the critical thinking crucial to an AP history class.
The implementation of summer homework for all AP classes seems to be both detrimental and helpful. Students are giving extra practice of certain skills so that upon entrance into the class, they are prepared to conquer the work given to them in the school year. However, many of the students entering AP classes (especially as incoming juniors and seniors) have other important plans in the summer that are purely academic. In addition to taking rigorous academic classes, many of these students are also members of prestigious, award-winning Logan programs such as band, color guard, and Forensics. Others are members of sports teams, which are also important components of student life. Still there are students who attend summer academic and residential programs such as COSMOS or Academic Connections at UCSD. These students are doing more than just schoolwork in order to further their appeal to colleges, and many may lack the time necessary to complete the entire schoolwork.
In addition, the contract students are asked to sign also states that students are expected to take the AP test in May. However, some students are unable or unwilling to do so for a variety of reasons. The first one is quite clear: AP tests are nearly $90 each, and that adds up quickly. The College Board offers a lowered fee for eligible students, but some students are ineligible but still also unable to pay their fees. This is unfair in that students are not given the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities solely because of financial issues. In addition, some students do enroll in the class and intend to take the test, but later on decide that they were not adequately prepared for the test, due to either their work or the teacher they had. Students should intend to take the test, but should not be penalized if they later decide to not take it. The work of each individual AP class is intended to mimic that of a college course, so whether or not a student decides to take the test, they should be given the point boost to their grade point average.
The Logan administration has often implemented programs and made decisions without consultation of those involved. Many of these may be beneficial to whom they effect, but many students taking AP classes already understand what they entail because they have experience in the AP program. The concept of a contract is understandable because everything is always better on paper, but the AP program was generally doing fine without these changes, and administration should consult students before making well-intended decisions that could potentially backfire.