McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

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Opinion | MCHS needs to offer more honors classes to upperclassmen

Due to their being “class gaps” and GPA drops because of it, students need to have a middle option to take a class that is meant for them
Haley Passarelli
Students must fill out a drop form and have it approved by a division chair before they drop an AP class, but there aren’t many honors options for upperclassmen looking for non-AP options.

A MCHS student sits at their computer frustrated on how to complete their homework for one of their AP classes. He is confused about the specific method he was taught by his teacher on how to answer the question and is also concerned about his grade. Rather than the student taking a general class he decided to take an AP class because there was no honors option in the middle. This is a growing problem for a lot of students entering their junior year at MCHS. MCHS needs to have more options for Honors classes once a student becomes an upperclassmen.

There are 21 AP,  Advanced Placement, classes offered at MCHS for the 2023-2024 school year. These classes are meant to provide a challenge to students as they move at a college pace because they are “harder” than the general Honors courses at MCHS. The College Board (who also runs the SAT) is in charge of providing the AP test at the end of the year which is an optional test AP students take to provide placement for future college class enrollment and can save students thousands of dollars in the long run.

AP classes are perfect for students who are looking to save money during their post-secondary schooling and can be beneficial to student learning because of the methods. The majority of AP classes students can take starts in their junior year. MCHS offers 37 classes that grant honors credit, including seven regular classes with earned honors credit options and eight considered dual credit classes with MCC. Juniors and seniors have access to about 21 honors classes, though many core divisions have only one or two honors options for these grade levels — and some offer none besides AP classes.

The first reason MCHS should offer more Honors classes rather than AP classes to students starting their junior year is because of a “class gap” that students have to deal with that can affect their GPA if they are not ready for an AP class. This “class gap” occurs because of the lack of honors class option for the course a student wants to take. For example in the science department the general physics classes offered to juniors are Physics I or AP Physics I, this can create a problem for students because AP Physics I is a particularly difficult AP class, and some students who enroll in the class are not at a high enough level for AP Physics but the regular course would be too easy for those students.

Because of there not being a Honors Physics option to fit that students needs, they would end up taking a class that is on a 4.0 GPA scale rather than a 5.0, which would cause a GPA difference of one point that can not only lower a students overall GPA, but also their Cumulative GPA. Another example of this “class gap” occurs for students who are taking AP Calculus AB or BC during their junior or senior year with the only other non AP math class being offered is Introduction to Statistics.

The second reason MCHS should offer more Honors classes rather than AP classes to students starting their junior year is because Honors classes add more variety to student learning than AP classes. An AP class’s curriculum and test taking skills are based around a general format that all schools need to follow in some way to be successful on the test. For example, AP classes offered by the social science department in particular deal with this problem as document analysis is based on HAPP or HAPPY, and the way to answer SAQ’s or short answer questions comes in the format of ACE.

These are just two of several examples of specific ways AP wants students to answer their questions, and this can pose a problem to students as some students like to use different methods during test taking and problem solving and like to have the option of answering questions with their own methods. Some students do not like to be confined to one style of learning, which is what AP generally focuses their test questions on, and if students are confused on the style or format there is not a clear way for them to understand it, and because of this it poses a problem to students who would rather just be in a Honors class.

The final reason MCHS should offer more honors classes to juniors is due to the fact that the majority of AP classes at MCHS are “student driven” or student reliant for success, and some students learn better with the material being taught in the classroom by a teacher rather than at home by themselves. For example, the social science classes at MCHS are driven by AMSCO AP Textbooks, with all the curriculum being contained in the books, but the homework in the classes is notes which are to be done at home by the students.

This makes the class feel student-driven as they are responsible for their own learning outside of the classroom and, while there are classroom activities that go along with what the students are learning in the class, if the notes in those classes are not completed, they are obsolete without the correct context of the student knowing what is going on. Some students are better learners in the classroom being driven by the teacher’s instruction, not a textbook, which makes honors classes a reliable option for students who find general classes too simple and AP classes too difficult. 

AP classes are overall designed for the benefit of the students who take them, and are extremely beneficial for colleges to see during admissions as well as looking at a students background, but they fit only specific types of students. Some students are left having to drop down to a general class or are stuck in a class that is too difficult for them without having a middle option to be in. There needs to be more honors classes offered to students in their junior and senior years at MCHS. 

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