UNION COUNTY — To advance student academic achievement, Union County High School will add three Advanced Placement courses to the high school curriculum in 2013-14, bringing the total number of Advanced Placement courses to 11.
In a statement released this week, Cindy Langley, director of Secondary Education for the Union County School District, announced this week that the expansion of course offerings follows a request from parents and students for the district to offer more challenging academic courses. Langley said that Advanced Placement courses, developed under the auspices of the College Board, provide students with the opportunity to take college-level classes while in high school. She said students who take AP courses engage in rigorous activities designed to promote discussion, collaborative problem solving, clarity in writing, and other critical thinking skills.
Langley said an added bonus is that at the end of each course, students take a national exam to measure how well they have mastered the course content. Students who score well on the exams have the opportunity to receive college credit and/or placement in advanced college courses. Passing the national exam to receive college credit, however, is not a requirement for students to receive their high school credit. The new AP courses include Human Geography, Psychology, and Macroeconomics.
AP courses were introduced in Union County Schools more than 25 years ago. The first courses were AP English Literature and Composition and AP Calculus AB. Soon thereafter, the district added AP courses in US History, Biology, and Chemistry. For a number of years those five courses comprised the district’s AP curriculum. Honors classes in English, math, science, and social studies at both the middle school and high school levels were also developed as feeder programs to prepare students for the AP courses.
Other AP courses added to the curriculum include English Language and Composition, Studio Art, and Drawing. The most recent AP addition, Statistics, was added this year. State regulations require teachers who teach AP courses to be endorsed for the specific course they teach to ensure that the instruction is aligned to the College Board standards.
“Research reports that AP teachers are among the most dedicated, prepared, and inspiring teachers in a school,” said Langley. “Studies also report that students who participate in AP courses develop confidence and learn skills such as time management and acquire study habits and writing skills essential for success in college.” In addition to AP offerings, the district encourages students to take advantage of dual credit courses at USC Union and Spartanburg Community College.
Langley said that this past fall, a group of high school parents and students asked the district to look more closely at the AP and dual credit offerings, which are courses students take concurrently at local colleges, in our neighboring districts to be sure that Union County was providing its students with the opportunity to take a variety of challenging, advanced courses during their junior and senior years. As part of that process the district found that its dual credit offerings through USC Union and Spartanburg Community College exceeded those available to many students in the upstate; however, it was also found that while its AP offerings were comparable to many, some of the district’s practices were counter productive. For example, following the addition of a fourth honors course in English at Union County High School in recent years, fewer students were taking the AP English courses. Similarly, fewer students were choosing to take AP US History.
The district will no longer offer English 4 Honors or US History Honors to encourage student participation in AP courses, which Langley said are more beneficial for students and for which the district can ensure rigor aligned to a national program. The high school progression for AP English will include English 1 Honors in eighth grade, English 2 Honors in ninth grade, English 3 Honors in 10th grade, AP English Literature in 11th grade, and AP Language in 12th grade.
The current progression for AP US History includes World History Honors in ninth grade, Government and Economics Honors in 10th grade, and AP US History in 11th grade. The district will add World Geography Honors in eighth grade and AP Human Geography in ninth grade to the progression next year. Students will also have the opportunity to take AP Psychology and/or AP Macroeconomics as social study electives their junior or senior year. Students who elect not to take AP English and AP US History classes will take college preparatory English 4 and college preparatory US History.
“We have talked to a number of high school principals and counselors in our area to compare offerings for honors students,’ Superintendent Dr. Kristi Woodall said. “We also asked them how they make sure the highest level courses have enough students expressing interest to offer the choices each year. We all agree that it is in the best interest of our honors students to make sure they experience the rigor of college while in high school before graduation. These AP and dual credit courses ensure that Union County students are prepared and competitive.”
Administrators and teachers will continue to explore opportunities to expand both AP and dual credit courses to advance academic achievement for students. The district has found that scheduling courses for designated grade levels such as offering AP Biology and AP Chemistry in alternating years increases student participation in AP programs, a factor that will ensure that Union County students have the skills to succeed in challenging college courses.