School Board approves five new honor classes for ’12-13′ curriculum

Ever since honors classes were removed from the list of classes at our school, students have had to choose between IB/AP classes and regular core classes.

According to the honors resolution passed on Jan. 26 by members of the Fairfax County School board, “the description for these five honors courses shall be based upon FCPS existing standard level courses, with increased depth and rigor.”

Social Studies Department Chair Eileen Hoppock said the overall goal was to offer students a challenge in an upper-level course that isn’t necessarily an AP or IB course.

“What I’m concerned about is how it’s going to be implemented, I don’t want it to be hashed out in a rushed manner, but we also have to make sure that we meet the deadline set,” Hoppock said. “I think that’s why a lot of people are concerned about this, just the timing.”

Hoppock said people are scrambling to figure out the dynamics of the new decision, because catalogs and the master schedule for the New Year have already been made.  The new decision could also affect the standard classes.

“I’m concerned about the impact this might have on standard-level classes, if you add another tier then some kids are going to opt for the advanced classes and some students are going to remain in the lower classes,” Hoppock said. “On the flip side, you might end up with an unmotivated class because the students that are going to push themselves could go to the middle tier.”

Hoppock said having challenging, but reasonable standard level classes would help alleviate some of the need for a third tier.

IB Coordinator Lisa Green said this new ruling does not really apply to our school at the moment, because there are already many different options offered to students.  In AP schools in our area such as Lake Braddock, there are really only two choices offered.  Students could choose from AP classes that are college level, or regular classes that would not present as much of a challenge to students.

“Parents wanted a middle ground between the two options,” Green said.  “I think it would really hurt our school, because we already offer many different classes for students.”

For example, juniors have the option between IB English HL, IB English SL, and regular English.  If a fourth tier was added here, it would be very crowded, Green said.

History Teacher Michael VanWambeke said he thinks the idea to standardize the classes across the board with the county was solid, but the overall implementation of it is in question at the moment.  As of right now, given the newness of the decision, the county and our school is still currently figuring everything out.  The new changes will probably affect our school in 2-3 years.

“The caution with this is that there may be too many options for students to try and decide what course is best for them,” VanWambeke said.  “When you can choose from going the IB course, the AP course, or somewhere in between, it can be sometimes a challenge figuring out what the best path is, especially if you want to do something in the middle.”

Director of Student Services Donna Piscitelli said juniors and seniors at our school already have honors classes available to them.  With the SL classes, students can take a challenging middle course, and get a 1.0 bump in their GPA.  Students might not be that enthusiastic about having another tier, when they already have a lot of variety.

“What we really have to ask ourselves, is that are we really meeting the needs of the students?” Piscitelli said.  “I feel like we are at the moment.”

Piscitelli said it is always important to constantly meet the needs of the students at our school.

Piscitelli salid, “That’s what school is really about, filling the needs for students and what comes after high school.”