Students load up with weighted classes

by | November 29, 2016 | in News | No Comments

Since the 2013-14 year, there has been a 17 percent increase in student enrollment in AP courses and a 15 percent increase in enrollment in Honors level courses.

This year, there are 14 AP classes and seven Honors classes offered at PHS. Forty-two percent of PHS students are enrolled in an AP course, while in 2013-14 year only 25 percent of the school was enrolled in an AP course. In the 2013-14 year, 27 percent of students were enrolled in an Honors course, while this year, 42 percent of student are enrolled.

The majority of the students taking Honors and AP classes are upperclassmen, however there has been an increase in enrollment among underclassmen as well.

“I usually tell students that they should be taking as challenging of a course load as they can,” said the director of the College and Career Center Allison Bly.

Bly said the pressures to take advanced courses does come from the colleges, but also from parents and peers.

“I think there are some students who really thrive off of pressure and that is what really drives them, but I think there are other students who don’t like the pressure and do think it’s a negative thing,” Bly said.

Since the 2013-14 year, the number of students taking more than one AP or Honors course has spiked in most cases. For example, the number of students taking four AP classes went from 21 to 36 now.

“There are 4,000 colleges and universities in this country, and the average admit rate for these schools is 65 percent,” Bly said. “To get into a school with a 65 percent admit rate, you don’t have to take every single AP and Honors course that the school offers.”

This year, there were several AP and Honors level classes added, including AP Computer Principles, Honors Spanish 4, Honors French 4, and Honors Mandarin 4.

There are four blocks of AP Computer Principles with 113 students total, which is a new class. AP Computer Principles was added after talking to computers teacher Nathan Mattix about what the students wanted and what the students needed in terms of programming classes, Mapes said.

In addition, all of the level four language classes became Honors, after the administration looked at other similar schools and their curriculum and decided that PHS level four language classes should be Honors classes as well, Mapes said.

The prerequisites in the 2013-14 year and earlier were much more firm, but since then,  some have become more of recommendations for the student rather than necessities, assistant principal Eric Mapes said.

Junior Rohan Srivastava is taking six weighted classes.

“The main reason I am taking [weighted classes] is that I was interested by the classes, and just the logical continuation of the classes I took last year,” Srivastava said. “I just want to challenge myself.”

Srivastava decided to take AP US History, as he believes historical thinking is one of his weaknesses.

“[My schedule] is fairly demanding, it is definitely a lot of work,” Srivastava said.

Srivastava said that although six out of his seven classes are weighted, he rarely has homework in four of those classes.

Junior Genevieve Raushenbush is taking five weighted classes and two free periods this year.

“It just kind of worked out that way,” Raushenbush said. “I wasn’t trying to have all weighted classes at all.”

Mapes agreed that it is a natural progression for many students to take AP and Honors classes as upperclassmen because the classes they are interested in are only offered as weighted courses.

“You know we are really concerned about the social and emotional piece of our students, you only get to do high school once,” Mapes said. “You need to enjoy your time in high school.”

Raushenbush wanted to take AP US History and Honors English because of her interest in those subjects, and also to challenge herself and improve her writing. For her other classes: Honors Physics, AP Calc AB and Honors Mandarin 4, there was not an alternative non-weighted option, she said.

“I think it’s important to have a healthy balance between your academics and what you’re doing outside of school, and having relationships with your friends and family,” Bly said.

The school does a good job not trying to emphasize weighted versus non-weighted courses. They encourage students to take advanced classes because they are interested in the topic, not just for the grade bump, Raushenbush said.

Counselor Chris Hartford said many things come into play when he decides whether or not he encourages students to take an advanced course versus the alternative, including the rest of their schedule and extracurriculars.

“You basically try to find out if [the schedule is] going to be too much for the student or if it’s manageable,” Hartford said.