I don’t know how many more questionable policy-making decisions I can take from FCPS.
The latest? The gradual elimination that has taken place of most English & Social Studies Honors level courses for 10th, 11th and 12th graders when there is a corresponding AP course offered. FCPS has been conducting this phase-out over a number of years. No one really noticed it was happening. Only recently did the popular documentary, “Race to Nowhere” get a lot of people asking where all the Honors classes had gone.
These honors courses need to be restored.
Never mind that this decision to eliminate these courses appears to have been made without a definitive vote by the School Board. Never mind that the “evidence” FCPS’ Department of Instructional Services has produced to “justify” this decision appears to be a misinterpretation of the data.
The bigger concerns here are the negative impact on FCPS student achievement and college admissions opportunities.
Elimination of these courses, which include English Honors 11, English Honors 12, World History Geography 2, US History Honors and Government Honors, means our high school students have limited curriculum choices. They can take a Gen Ed course which many students find less challenging and not as rigorous as the Honors option – or they can load up on AP classes – whether they are ready and capable or not.
Equally high performing and competitive school districts in our area – including Montgomery, Howard and Loudoun counties offer their students a 3-tiered curriculum that includes these English and Social Studies Honors courses.
So why is FCPS making decisions that in effect make our students less competitive?
FCPS’ 2-tier curriculum is like a restaurant menu that offers only two choices –a plate of rice or a plate of meat.
Where are the vegetables?
You need the vegetables.
Students deserve the additional choice of Honors course options for the challenging educational value they provide.
FCPS School Board Chair Kathy Smith disagrees.
Yesterday, Smith told WAMU-88.5 public radio station reporter Jonathan Wilson “I think we are better served – when a kid has a choice and wants to take a more rigorous course – if we can put them in an AP class. It’s been proven through studies that those kids are more successful in college.”
Smith doesn’t seem to grasp that not everyone is ready for an AP course. Importantly, not every student is capable of taking 4-5 AP courses in one year either. Even FCPS recommends that students take no more than 2-3 AP courses per year.
FAIRGRADE and another parent advocacy group called Restore Honors Courses (RHC) recently learned that at Woodson High School, the data demonstrates students who formerly were taking Honors courses are now choosing Gen Ed classes over AP when the Honors option is no longer available.
Does FCPS know if this is happening in the rest of our high schools too? And why are parents and teachers doing the research and compiling the data that FCPS administrators should have done a long time ago?!
Here’s another aspect of this issue to consider: Remember how hard the community fought alongside FAIRGRADE to gain the extra 0.50 GPA weight for Honors courses? The removal of these Honors courses means that the student who doesn’t want to take the college level AP course only has the option for the Gen Ed version now – and Gen Ed classes don’t get extra GPA weighting. That results in a less competitive kid when college admissions officers are looking for academic rigor on a student’s transcript and top GPAs for merit scholarships.
School Board – I hope you’ll reverse this decline of our curriculum offerings and restore these five Honors courses or we may see students submitting letters like this with their college applications:
“Dear College Admissions Officer,
FCPS doesn’t offer a three-tiered curriculum like equally competitive school districts. My only choice was to stress out and take a full load of 4 or more AP courses, which FCPS by the way discourages, or taking Gen Ed courses.
As I tried to balance my weekend job, school and sports schedule in order to be a sane, well-prepared student, I took FCPS’ recommendation of only taking 2-3 AP courses.
Please do not be misled by the lack of rigor on my transcript. If there had been an Honors course alternative, I could have and would have taken it. Of course I would have had a higher GPA then too.
I’m sure you understand. After all, EVERYONE does know how great Fairfax County Public Schools are right?”