Fairfax schools officials ax honors classes

Jul 7, 2011 by

How do you convince more African-American and Hispanic high school students to sign up for demanding college-level Advanced Placement courses?

If you’re Fairfax County Public Schools, you take away their other options — even if the end result is more students taking the least challenging classes.

Which is why Restore Honors Courses and Fairgrade are currently circulating an i-petition protesting FCPS’ stealth phase-out of upper-level English and Social Studies honors courses in schools where AP is offered.

When classes resume in September, rising juniors and seniors will have just two options: General Education or Advanced Placement. Nothing in between.

Because FCPS itself recommends that students take no more than two or three AP classes of their four core-subject areas, phasing out honors courses will force many students into regular classes that do not adequately challenge them, violating FCPS’ own requirements for a “balanced curriculum” that addresses all levels of student achievement.

Getting rid of honors also makes FCPS graduates less academically competitive, Megan McLaughlin, a former Georgetown admissions officer and Duke admissions reader who is running for the School Board, told The Washington Examiner.

“Standard-level courses are not considered rigorous, and college admissions officers will be puzzled by FCPS juniors and seniors taking less rigorous classes as they head into college.”

This significant policy change was made without a single public hearing — or a vote by the elected school board. One of the largest and wealthiest school systems in the country would be expected to expand students’ options and tailor its academic offerings to a wider level of student achievement levels. But FCPS’ two-sizes-fit-all mentality is going in the opposite direction.

To boost their GPAs, the highest-achieving students will load up on too many AP courses than is prudent. Meanwhile, students with time-consuming extracurricular activities such as sports or band will forgo the additional challenge of honors and take Gen Ed courses instead.

Other students, for whom not-too-hard, but not-too-easy honors classes would be a perfect match, will struggle needlessly in AP courses they are not academically prepared to handle. FCPS’ own data indicate that about 30 percent of these students will wind up failing their AP exams.

via Fairfax schools officials ax honors classes | Barbara Hollingsworth | Columnists | Washington Examiner.

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