The Extinction of Advanced Honors Classes
by Jessica Phillips
Advanced Placement, or A.P., classes, are a great option for many students. A.P. classes are intended to be college-level classes in specific fields, giving students a more in-depth curriculum in classes with students sharing similar interests. In May, students enrolled in A.P. classes take exams lasting as long as three hours. Many colleges will accept high scores on these exams as college credit, allowing students to skip over introductory courses and jump into courses related to their major, saving students time and money.
Braintree High School is fortunate to offer a large selection of A.P. classes to take. According to the Braintree High School 2013-2014 Handbook, “over one-third of the senior class is enrolled in A.P. classes.” While these classes provide a great learning opportunity for the students enrolled in them, they have begun to harm the non-A.P. classes that BHS has to offer.
During freshmen and sophomore year, four levels of classes are offered: advanced honors, honors, college preparatory, and level four. These classes are all clearly defined and are weighted differently, yet equally spaced apart, when calculating GPA. Even during freshmen year, students are on a clearly defined track of what classes they will be taking.
Things take a drastic shift during junior year. The advanced honors English and Social Studies options are replaced with A.P. Literature and A.P. United States History. Beginning next year, advanced honors Physics will no longer be run; A.P. Physics 1 will take its place. Advanced honors foreign language classes offered to juniors are commonly referred to as pre-A.P.
By not offering advanced honors classes, students are forced to make a difficult decision. If they wish to stay on the track that they are on, they must take challenging college-level classes; if they opt not to take the A.P. class, they must take the course at an honors level.
A.P. classes grow even more out of control by the time students reach their senior year. Not a single advanced honors class is offered; they have all been replaced by A.P. classes. All non-A.P. English and Social Studies classes offered to seniors end up being mixed-level. Mixed-level classes combine students from honors, college preparatory, and level four classes into a single class. While the students may be given different homework assignments or tests, the reality is that they are all taking part in one class. Even worse, honors students in these classes still receive more credit when it comes to calculating GPA.
A.P. classes, while offering a higher level and quantity of material than advanced honors classes, are weighted the exact same way as advanced honors classes. This means that students are given no additional credit for taking a much more difficult and challenging class.
While honors classes are still challenging, it is significantly less work, pressure, and material than an advanced honors class. The group of students enrolled in honors classes can vary significantly compared to an advanced honors class. This results in honors classes being very challenging for some students while still being too easy for other students, particularly those who have taken advanced honors classes in the past.
Honors classes are also weighed less than advanced honors or A.P. classes, meaning that even a perfect A in an honors class could harm the GPA of someone who normally takes advanced honors or A.P. classes. Likewise, A.P. classes can also hurt students’ GPAs. Advanced honors classes and A.P. classes are weighted equally when calculating GPA, despite being at very different levels of difficulty. This means that a freshman who receives a B in advanced honors biology will receive the same weight to their GPA as a senior who receives a B in A.P. biology. The two are obviously on different levels of difficulty, yet are considered equal when calculating GPA.
A.P. classes have also been harmed by the removal of advanced honors courses. Now, more students take these classes who aren’t necessarily interested in them simply because they are the only “Level One” option offered. With more students enrolling in A.P. classes, the classes are now filled with students who simply want or need the A.P. credit rather than students who are truly interested in the subject. It is also harder for teachers to run classes which once attracted thirty or so students, and now draw in over one-hundred students for some subjects.
Though A.P. classes offer a great advantage to the students enrolled in them, they are causing too much damage to the way non-A.P. classes operate. They force many students to take classes that are either too difficult or too easy for them, and prevent from students truly benefiting from their studies. Braintree High School needs to bring back advanced honors classes, or it may see even more extreme changes in the way both A.P. classes and honors classes operate.
Jessica Phillips is a student in Advanced Placement English Language and Composition