Before the College Board began to exert its influence in 1952, most high schools offered two options for courses: College Prep or Honors. The distinction between the courses was difficult to define, and schools sometimes faced accusations that the system “tracked” minority students into lower classes.
Today, the availability of honors classes at the high school level has declined considerably, edged out by AP courses that offer the promise of college course credits upon successful completion of an exam. It is rare to find honors-level courses offered at the high school level, mostly because, as the College Board contends, Advanced Placement is the equivalent to an honors-level course at the high school level. Still, some students find the gap between the two curriculums to be too wide.
“CP classes are too easy, but the work level in AP is too challenging,” said junior Teya
In 1952, 104 high schools and 130 colleges nationwide participated in College Board’s 11 subject AP program. By 2012-2013, the number of participants rose to 18,920 high schools and 4,027 colleges. Today, all high schools in the United States are required to offer four AP courses in the following subjects: English, math, science and social studies. The curriculum — originally designed by the Ford Foundation and the College Board in hopes of making the transition from high school to college easier — was intended to help impoverished students flourish.
With this increase in AP courses, many teachers lose the opportunity to direct their class in a creative way and must instead focus on preparing students for the AP exam.
“When I taught honors psychology I was able to do more projects,” AP Psychology teacher Lana Gentry said. “Now I am in a time crunch to get students prepared for their AP test.”
Today, students say they often feel forced into taking AP classes for college résumés and end up overloading their schedules. Students are faced with two extremes: doing college-level work or being stuck in a class with kids who read between the second and tenth grade level.
“I feel pressured into taking CP classes because of the intense amount of work present in AP classes,” junior Maiah Walker said.
Many students want the opportunity to take more rigorous courses. Taking challenging courses can help students better prepare for college and further education, but they also don’t want the demanding workload.
“Honors classes compared to CP can help prepare you better for college,” junior Justin Vo said.
Some students believe that having a more academically-challenging environment can be beneficial to them and their futures. Having a three track system would allow teachers to teach courses at equal levels. Students want to avoid CP classes for the behavior problems, but they don’t have the skills to be successful at the AP level. Honors isn’t intended to be a substitute for poorly behaved students.
“CP classes are not as challenging for me and students are at different levels making it harder for instruction,” junior Makenna Russell said.
Rather than counting for college credit, Honors classes are rigorous courses that provide a GPA bump. AP courses include college credit. If students desire more honors courses they should communicate with a teacher teaching that subject or go to Administration.
“The students drive the program” said counselor Pham-Peck “Students should talk to administration or teachers, before the curriculum can be approved by the district.”