Juniors at Hickman High School will have the opportunity to take Advanced Placement courses in language arts starting this fall. Administrators and the language arts department are eliminating the junior honors language course and replacing it with AP language.
This change, already in place at Rock Bridge High School, will allow juniors to prepare for the AP language exam, which students can take for college credit.
Both AP language — composition, essentially — and AP literature are currently restricted to seniors only, and students have had to choose between them. Although many seniors take both AP exams, they have had only one year to take the class that prepares them for either exam.
Colleges and universities use the test scores to decide whether incoming freshmen are entitled to credit. The passing score varies from school to school.
Hickman guidance director Ann Landes said talk about expanding AP language arts credit to juniors has gone on for some time. The change reflects a national trend for high schools to offer AP courses to more students, Landes said.
With the current system, the school isn’t giving students the chance to take both tests with the preparation an AP class provides, Landes said.
Principal Mike Jeffers said the school is working to strengthen its college-preparatory curriculum to help students as young as middle school prepare for these AP exams.
“The College Board came up with this national model called ‘vertical alignment’ or ‘vertical teaming’ in which, ideally, schools makes their curriculum align more with AP starting at the sixth-grade level,” Jeffers said.
Jeffers said he sees a lot of potential with the vertical alignment model and hopes that more of the school’s courses will adjust to be more preparatory.
“We just want to make sure that our students have all the prerequisite skills and be prepared for the rigor of AP courses,” Jeffers said. “We want to start at the junior and senior level now and eventually work backwards to align more classes.”
Landes said the expansion of the school’s AP program has elicited varied responses. For example, she said, some worry that taking away the honors-level course will leave a gap between regular and AP courses with no intermediary class to help students prepare for the difficulty of an AP-level class.
On the other hand, 170 soon-to-be juniors are signed up for the AP language course this fall.
“Some people want to have an in-between class to help students get ready for AP classes,” Landes said. “But there shouldn’t be reason for kids to feel they aren’t ready because we offer (AP courses) in history, as well.” And it’s working, she said. Hickman offers AP history courses to students as young as sophomores.
Another area of concern came from current juniors, who are worried that because they already took the honors language course this past year, they would not able to take the AP language course that will now be offered to future juniors.
But that’s not the case, Landes said: “Current juniors have the option to take AP language if they feel they are not adequately prepared (for the exam).”