Recently, Howell High School has been placed on the honor roll for their excellent Advanced Placement classes. They are one of 539 school districts across the United States and Canada being recognized by College Board for the third annual AP District Honor Roll. The state with the largest number of AP Honor Roll districts was Massachusetts with 46 districts, while Michigan was just shortly behind in second place with 39 districts.
“I am very proud of our students and teachers for their hard work within our AP program,” Mr. Jason Schrock says, HHS principal.
This year, Howell School District has done two things simultaneously. One, increasing their access to AP course work, and secondly, increasing the percentage of students earning scores of three or higher on AP exams. Achieving both of these tasks is what everyone shoots for. It indicates that the school district is identifying bright, motivated students who will benefit the most from such a hard course. Countries all over the United States accept AP credits which in turn can save students and their families thousands of dollars.
“The Honor we received from College Board is important because it shows that we are not only providing more opportunities for students to take the rigorous coursework involved with an AP course, but our teachers are working hard to prepare them for success at a greater rate than ever,” Mr. Schrock says.
For students, taking AP classes are highly beneficial. It gives students the opportunity to surround themselves with students who are more motivated. On their high school transcripts, colleges will look and notice that they are a hard worker and they are willing to challenge themselves academically.
Last year’s graduate, Nick Barnowski, who attends Michigan State University as a journalism major, has nothing but good to say about AP classes.
“Now that I’m in college, the biggest way AP classes helped me was the college credit you receive. If you do well on the AP exams, you could potentially enter college with 10 or more credits, or in my case 14. A lot of kids I know are already considered sophomores despite only being in college for one semester due to the amount of AP credits they earned. Along with that, the workload of AP classes really helped me with time management and studying in my first semester,” Barnowski says.
With the names and honor of AP classes comes hard work. The exams are college level so student will have to work much harder than in their normal high school classes. Students will have to read more, study more, and pay attention more. There is definitely added stress for students in these classes, but with all of that added onto their plate there is a huge benefit. AP classes at HHS have a ten percent multiplier added to their grade.
“I absolutely would recommend taking them. There were nights where I definitely questioned why I decided to take some of the classes, but after a full [college] semester under my belt I am glad I chose to take them. All the hard work put into the classes can prove itself later on in school,” Barnowski says.
Hundreds of thousands of high school students enroll in AP classes every year, with hopes of brightening their transcripts and to earn college credit. In an article for the Atlantic, former college professor and high school teacher, John Tierney, argues that AP courses in fact do not deliver their promised benefits. Tierney states that the courses are nothing like real college classes, and that the popularity has brought down their quality. But on the contrary, HHS and many people across the United States seems to disagree.
“Howell has never been recognized in this capacity for AP achievement, and it is wonderful to earn the honor. Our teachers have discussed expanding our AP curriculum as well, and I am eager to assist in this endeavor,” Mr. Schrock says.
Here at Howell High School, there are many offered classes that most students don’t have time in their schedule to take nor are students aware of their existence.
“I knew there were many choices, but there are still even more than that,” says sophomore Kayla McClain.
In order to help students make the best decisions possible for their four year plan, listed below are five classes some students may be interested to include in their schedule.
Taught this school year by Jennifer Sebestyen and Amanda Malo, this class is an advanced elective that allows students to argue specific points and to put their speaking skills to the test. Class members are given the chance to commit themselves to any topic they choose, and through a variety of speech types, are able to argue their point to an audience that understands.
“It gives students the opportunity to dissect what is a good source and what isn’t,” says Ms. Sebestyen of her debate classes. “There’s no other class that gives students the opportunity to think on their feet.”
Offered to 10th-12th graders, debate class can also be useful for the future. Students will receive help learning MLA format, college speaking skills, and advanced performing techniques. Because of these traits, this class can prepare juniors and seniors for college as well.
“It improves reading skills and really helps with organization,” adds Ms. Sebestyen.
Students with challenging minds and strong speaking skills should fare well in this course.
2.) AP European History
For students with rigorous minds and challenging goals, this class can help those interested in taking a step towards college and learning important factors of European history.
Though offered the past few years, this class has had little success as there have not been enough students signed up to actually run the class. Though technically still an offered course, many students haven’t had a chance to put it into their schedule, or simply haven’t known about it.
Offered as a social studies elective, it is best to take World History before this class. Involving political, cultural, and social aspects of the European culture, this college course is offered to juniors and seniors.
3.) 3D Design
Taught by Ms. Rose O’Reilly, this brand new class will be offered next year in the place of jewelry. This class will involve a variety of media, more than any other art course offered, and will promote critical thinking through the study of aesthetics.
“There will still be a jewelry project,” assures Ms. O’Reilly, “but there is such variety that it will allow students to use more materials.”
This class will need many new students to make it a sure success, so sign-up if you’re interested in the artistic field or have ever been intrigued with 3-dimensional design.
Also taught by Ms. O’Reilly, this class is loved by many students. Walking into the room, you will see everyone busy working and enjoying their time. Beautiful artwork covers the paint stained tables and almost every inch of the space in the classroom.
“It helps you get in touch with your creative side,” says sophomore Britney Winters of her experience in ceramics.
Ceramics class is designed for those interested in designing and creative thinking. Enjoyed by many as an hour away from the drama of normal high school, ceramics is the course to take for students with artistic ability.
“It benefits students because it’s more than just making things out of clay,” says Ms. O’Reilly. “There’s a lot of problem solving and we learn about different cultures.”
5.) Science Fiction/Fantasy
Two classes now fused together and taught by Ms. Margaret Breece is science fiction and fantasy which is offered to junior and seniors.
“I’ll be going over both class outlines and letting the students pick,” says Mrs. Breece of teaching the class. “It’s mostly up to the kids what subject they study.”
This literature based class involves reading popular novels and looks at current technology that warns of consequences. It also shows students how to find a place in the world.
“When students go to college, it’s a quest or an adventure,” adds Mrs. Breece. “This course can help them with that.”
These are just a few classes that students may not be aware that are offered. Be sure to look at the Howell High School course catalogue or talk to your counselor about other classes that may fit your interests and learning style.
AP tests. Depending on the difficulty of your class schedule, the mere mention of this phrase can elicit different responses: a shiver of apprehension from those who haven’t taken them yet; a self-satisfied grin from those who have; a sigh of relief from students in non-advanced classes who don’t need to take them at all. Whichever category you fall under, you’re likely to have witnessed the effect of AP testing on high school students firsthand. With the AP US History test having already transpired and the AP Biology and Government exams rapidly approaching, it’s no surprise that many students – and teachers – are feeling stressed.
For the uninformed, AP (or Advanced Placement) tests are used by participating colleges to grant credit to students who earned high enough scores to qualify. According to the College Board website, about 17% of the class of 2010 scored a 3 or higher on an AP exam; the College Board defines a 3 as “qualified to receive college credit”. Although most colleges will settle for the 3-average, more selective universities may require a 4 or 5 in order to receive credit for that class, which places an inordinate amount of pressure on the students to succeed.
“I’m studying like crazy!” said Maddie Kroll, a sophomore who took both the AP US History and AP Biology exam. “No social life for me,” she jokingly added.
There’s no question that the AP exams, which span two weeks from Monday, May 2 to Friday, May 13, have found many students scrambling to relearn as much information as possible from the last seven months of school. But what exactly is on the tests? According to social studies teacher Mark Oglesby, who is on the AP US Government Test Development Committee, any and all questions have to be in the course description (which students receive at the beginning of the year) and in the textbooks. “The exam needs to be fair,” he said. While also emphasizing that he can’t tell students precisely what’s on the exam due to ‘ethical issues’, the entire 4th hour AP US Government and Politics class agreed that Mr. Oglesby had given them ‘more than enough’ info from which to study.
Senior Andrew Kellam, who plans to attend Michigan State University in the fall, will be taking the AP Stats exam. He took AP Stats because it is “more challenging than other classes.” To prepare for the exam, Kellam has been working on review packets given to him in class. “I attended a review session one evening with Ms. [Karen] Lessnau, and we all had pizza,” he said.
Lessnau has been holding out-of-school study sessions since the 2006-07 school year, when she first began teaching AP Stats. The first year, only four students attended out of the fourteen slated to take the exam; more recently, there has been a favorable shift in attendance numbers.
“This year we have had the most students sign up to take the AP Stats exam than ever before,” said Lessnau, “and 75% of them attended the review session.”
It’s understandable why so many students find themselves stressed, even regretful, around this time of year. But although that strain might seem overwhelming right now, the eventual payoff that comes with scoring high on an AP test far outweighs the negatives – really.