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College Board Confidential

Monopoly Board by Walker Lina Edited by Brian Gonzalez-Montoya
Monopoly Board by Walker Lina
Edited by Brian Gonzalez-Montoya

Welcome to College Board Monopoly, the fast paced college admissions game where players compete to accumulate as many application properties as possible. Along the way the players take chances on SAT Subject tests, score rushing, and difficult AP classes. But one thing is for sure, the Board holds the cards in this game, and like the Bank of Classic Monopoly, the Board never goes broke.

 

Pay-per-Test

The College Board is a nonprofit organization which is famous for administering the Advanced Placement Exams, the SATs and other college admission programs. Even after they’re in college, many students take the College Board’s CLEP Tests to get credit for subjects they already know. Students spent roughly $695,000,000 on the College Board in 2011. That’s enough money to pay for 13.9 million SAT Tests, or pay for a four year degree at the University of Washington more than 6000 times.

 

The College Board often comes under fire as abusing their status as nonprofit because The Americans For Educational Testing Reform (AETR) have made it their mission to have the College Board’s nonprofit status overturned along with that of ACT Inc., which runs the ACT Tests, and Educational Testing Services (ETS), which administers many standardized tests at the college level.

 

As the AETR website explains, “College Board earned profits of 8.6% in 2009 – profits that would be respectable for a for-profit company. When a non-profit company is earning those profits, something is wrong.”

 

According to College Board’s IRS Form 990 (their tax documents), they netted a $59 million profit in 2011, despite maintaining their status as a non-profit.

 

The AETR also takes issue with the College Board for paying their executives so highly. The College Board pays it’s CEO far more than the American Red Cross (another major nonprofit), which, according to the AETR, is unjustified given their high testing fees.

 

“CEO Gaston Caperton is being compensated $872,061 per year. That is more than twice the President of the United States’s annual salary of $400,000,” AETR writes. “College Board’s 23 executives make an average of $355,271 per year. These salaries are far too high for a non-profit company.”

 

The College Board does use some revenue for fee waivers for low income students. Any student who receives free and reduced lunch can take the SAT twice for free, and can receive waivers for subject tests and AP tests as well.

 

 

College Board: One Stop Shop, or Monopoly?

Looking back through history, the United States have frequently broken up companies that formed monopolies to prevent them from having too much power, like the Standard Oil Company. Despite this, the College Board, a private company, controls most of the programs that high school students use to enter college. Many students are concerned that the College Board has too much power and could abuse it.

 

“I feel they have monopolized the standardized testing industry and are poised to run amok with it,” said Aviation High School senior Jake Hecla. “Where there is no competition, greed thrives.”

 

As a college prep school, it’s important that AHS offers AP classes because colleges want to see students who take challenging classes. However, this leaves students with fewer options, which can be challenging.

 

“From appearances, I think the College Board mirrors a monopolistic practice, said

Bruce Kelly. “I am not aware of other alternatives outside of AP and IB [International

Baccalaureate] that are so widely recognized for rigor and readily accepted by universities.

Is there another alternative that could demonstrate that?

 

AHS is required to report these scores in terms of how many people took them and how

many passed as part of a school performance report. This means that Aviation needs to not

only offer the exams, but also do well on them.

 

“My mind is interested in trends, where are we moving?,” said Kelly. “Just a single data

point doesn’t say a lot.”


The College Board declined to comment.

Put the brakes on distracted driving

 

One one-thousand. You look away from the road to check your texts. Two one-thousand. The car in front of you is turning right, and you have no idea. Three one-thousand. You start to slam on the brakes. Four one-thousand. It’s already too late.

Eighty percent of all crashes happen within three seconds of driver inattention. Just ask Aviation senior Chris Riley, who was in a car accident last month and learned his lesson the hard way.

“So I was over there on First Avenue going towards QFC, and I was changing the station and  looked up and in front of me there was a car and it was stopped, and in front of it was another car and they were stopped and they were going left,” said Riley.  “I hit [the car in front of me], and then they hit the car in front of them.”

For many people, it takes something as scary as a car crash to change their driving habits for the better. Let’s change that. It’s easy to make smart decisions before a crash happens, like waiting until a stop light to change the radio station, or choosing to not apply mascara during rush hour traffic, or any other type of traffic.

“I’m just super aware of everything and not getting distracted at all,” said Riley. “Just pay attention more, it’s simple stuff. I’m gonna quote Dustin [Werran] here: Just don’t be stupid.”

Despite clear statistics pointing to distracted driving as a serious risk, more than half of teens said they believe texting while driving isn’t dangerous in a 2009 Allstate Foundation survey.

“In this study that focused on about 1,063 teens, a lot of great information came from this which allowed us to recognize that teens believe they are more confident in their skill,” said Chief Executive Officer of Swerve Driving School, Joe Giammona. “Distractions come in many forms and we are not built to multi-task in that capacity when behind the wheel, yet we attempt to everyday.”

Being focused behind the wheel is something that strongly impacts the high school demographic. Distracted driving was a cause in 16% of fatal crashes among people under 20 years old, and 450,000 teens were injured in car accidents in 2010 alone.

To combat these statistics, The Allstate Foundation Launched keepthedrive.com. Keep the Drive is a teen led movement to stop dangerous driving, and reverse disturbing statistics about teen driving. They provide tools and resources for teen activists, as well as plenty of information to set the record straight about what’s safe behind the wheel.

“Keep the Drive is led by teens across the country who want to make a difference in the lives of their friends and classmates,” according to the website. “You’re probably tired of being talked ‘at’ when it comes to driving, so Keep the Drive was created to let you do the talking instead.”

Texting is something that many teens do so commonly that it seems like second nature to them, but doing so while driving can have deadly consequences. A study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that texting and driving increases the chances of getting in a crash by twenty-three times.

“For younger drivers, the car continues to serve as a social hub as it has for decades,” said Giammona. “But now vehicles are not just a mobile party; they’ve also become a spot to place calls and send texts–all too often with deadly consequences.”

AHS students are well aware that texting and driving is bad news. More than half of surveyed students said that texting and driving is the most dangerous form of distracted driving. Not only that, 41% named cell phone use behind the wheel as the most dangerous bad driving habit besides driving under the influence.

One concerned student is even taking action. Part of Maddison Brinson’s senior project is a safe driving campaign at her local police station. As someone training to be in the field of law enforcement, she wants drivers to think about the potential consequences of driving distracted.

“I am concerned with people’s safety in general, but considering that I will be a cop when I’m older, it is even more important to me,” said Brinson. “If you are being distracted while driving, it can not only affect you, but others around you, and can end in deadly consequences.”

Texting and driving is the most infamous form of distracted driving, but it’s certainly not the only dangerous one. Eating, doing makeup, talking to friends and even listening to music loudly are all risky habits behind the wheel.

“Factors such as rowdy or conversing passengers, eating, and drinking tend to be underreported,” said Giammona. “We need to remember that just general distractions inside our vehicles abound. It’s very simple: don’t drive distracted.”

Marching off to May

After two years of easing into Aviation’s classes, many of this year’s juniors will begin taking AP classes for the first time. AP classes are a new experience for these students, as they study for one big test during May for each class. These classes separate the diligent from the lazy, and the confident from the faint of heart.

One does not simply walk into the exam room in May unprepared. Unlike their level counterparts, AP classes are tailored to prepare students for the material that the AP test will cover.

“I don’t have a curriculum for AP,” said Michelle Juarez, who teaches AP Language and Composition, “but I certainly have a goal in mind for where they need to be. It’s a matter of giving them very specific guided feedback. It’s giving them very specific practice tests and timed writes. It’s having them go over student models. It’s a whole process that wouldn’t exist if I didn’t have that test.”

However, teachers can only do so much to help their students. Successful students must be willing to work outside of class to survive the turmoilous year.

“In order to be successful in all my classes, I had to study both before and after school. I used to show up at 7:45 and study the day’s APUSH material until 9:00. This gave me a chance to refresh my memory before class began,” said senior and AP veteran Jake Hecla. “When I arrived home from robotics, I would finish up the reading and delve into any remaining homework until it was complete. I could usually get it all done by 11:00 or so, though I’ll admit I had to pull a few very late nights.”

Any rigorous class can cause a student’s GPA to take a hit, but AP classes are unique because much of the material must be learned independently of lectures.

“Although you get a good foundation in class,” said Crom, “it’s a lot of self studying, and you have to discipline yourself to study every night to keep up with the class.”

While AP classes are a new experience for the juniors taking them, certain strategies for success are the same as for any other class.

“I think successful students, whether AP or not, are good time managers,” said Juarez. “Because they tend to be organized, they finish ahead of the deadline.”

Current members of the AP army concur with this observation.

“I have a weekly calendar and I try to accomplish certain things by certain dates,” said AHS junior Lauren Crom. “Staying organized on the calendar and sticking to those dates really helps me manage my time.”

Many students find that studying for multiple AP tests causes anxiety and stress. While coping strategies vary from person to person, some students use exercise to blow off steam as well as multi-task.

“Everyday I go for a run and I listen to [Mr.Kumakura’s] recordings during that run,” said Crom. “It’s a good way to study Spanish too.”

 

Maintaining sanity also requires students to persevere, even when they’re struggling.

“The hardest part is convincing yourself that giving up is never an option,” said Hecla.

While it may be tempting to try a Blitzkrieg style strategy, cramming late into the night and doing hundreds of calculus problems at the same time, experienced students warn that this strategy is not helpful.

“I find that maintaining a balanced study schedule was the most effective strategy for keeping my grades up,” said Hecla. “ A small amount of time each day is orders of magnitude better than cramming, which contributes to stress, test anxiety and ultimately failure.”

AP students preparing to do battle with the college board in May will find their classes easier if they enter classes prepared with prerequisite skills such as having an understanding of proper grammar and organization.

“[In Junior Composition] we did a lot more work on grammar skills and essay composition,” said Juarez. “While we do a lot of essay writing in AP Lit, I expect that they have good essay skills coming in. We’re really focused on the analytical aspect.”

It is possible for students who are not already adept writers to succeed in AP Language and Composition. According to Juarez, overcoming these obstacles is a matter of having a good attitude.

“I welcome students that are willing to challenge themselves,” said Juarez. “I have a number of students for whom English is their second language so their writing skills are weaker, but they still have strong analytical skills, and that’s really the more important part. The writing skills will come along if they’re willing to work.”

Surviving AP classes provided more benefits than an impressive college application. AP classes are supposed to mimic the rigor and style of college level courses. At AHS, teachers try to honor this intention.

“When I first came into teaching AP I actually based much of what I do on my own freshman composition course,” said Juarez. “Some of the same activities, journaling critical reflections, peer editing, all of those things were things we did in real college classes.”

Questions for Juarez

You used to teach both AP Comp and Junior Comp, in your mind, how does a class being AP change the curriculum?

For those classes it was totally different curriculum. For Junior English it was American literature, AP is very specific to the AP test which is really nonfiction and based on persuasive techniques of speakers and writers. We did book groups, we did a lot more work on grammar skills and essay composition, so while we do a lot of essay writing in AP lit, I expect that they have good essay skills coming in. SO we’re really focused on the analytical aspect.

Besides the extra work load, how does having a standardized test at the end of the course change the way students need to prepare?

I don’t have a curriculum for AP, but I certainly have a goal in mind for where they need to be. It’s a matter of giving them very specific guided feedback. It’s giving them very specific practice tests, timed writes, it’s having them go over student models. It’s a whole process that wouldn’t exist if I didn’t have that test. It would look very diff

When I first came into teaching AP I actually based much of what I do on my own freshman composition course. Some of the same activities, journaling critical reflections, peer editing, all of those things were things we did in real college classes.

Do you find that students have trouble transitioning to having AP classes? Why is this transition difficult for them?

As long as they come knowing that they are going to have to put in a good deal of time if they want to improve. I can’t make them better writers, they have to do the work themselves.

SOme of them want to be given answers, some of them really rely on me. SOme of them don’t have the skills coming in and they’re not willing to work on them, or I had some students who came in because their friends came in and that makes it difficult because they don’t want to be here for the right reasons. Some of them just take an AP class because they think it will look good on a college transcript they really need to come in with the idea that they want to succeed and improve and work.

As a teacher do you generally expect a higher quality of work from AP students versus students in a level class? I welcome students that are willing to challenge themselves, so I have a number of students for whom english isn’t their second language so their writing skills are weaker but they still have strong analytical skills, and that’s really the more important part. The writing skills will come along if they’re willing to work.

What do the most successful AP students do to manage the workload? why does this work?

What strategies are particular to AP?

You’ve mentioned before that the AP Comp timeline and the APUSH timeline lineup loosely, tell me more about how that works.

How can students take advantage of this, from the perspective of either class?

CROM

Right now the most challenging class is AP calculus. It’s a lot of self studying and you have to discipline yourself, and manage your time so you can finish your chapter before the big test.

Although you get a good foundation in class it’s a lot of self studying, and you have to discipline yourself to study every night to keep up with the class. I have a weekly calendar and I try to accomplish certain things by certain dates focusing on one class per night, but also spreading it around a little bit works well for me.

The calendar helps a lot, staying organized on the calendar and sticking to those dates really helps me manage my time.

Everyday I go for a run and I listen to Mr. K’s recording’s during that run, it’s a good way to study Spanish too.

Some Things Never Change

Sponsored by Initech

Griping about the dress code and outdated technology at Blade Runner Industries™ Aviation High School may seem current issues, but BRI™-AHS students bemoaned these issues long before today’s students learned to fly a jet-pack.

Uniforms at BRI™-AHS are a common complaint these days. With so many sponsor logos sewed onto the uniform jackets that no one is really sure what the original color was, it’s easy to see why many students are frustrated.

Administration dismisses complaints about the high volume of logos on the uniforms.

“You can totally still see what color the uniforms are, they’re blue right? No wait—red,” said Stolte.

After staring into space for a moment, Stolte continued, “…orange?”

 

Students are also concerned about the lack of freedom and forced allegiance to school sponsors.

“I don’t even like most of the companies that sponsor us,”said BRI™-AHS student Colleen Day. “It’s dangerous that schoolsponsor[censored to protect sponsor]’s logo is on our uniforms, it’s like they’re encouraging us to drink!”

Per a policy as old as the school itself, BRI™-AHS administration have dismissed these concerns, assuring students the uniforms promote a positive, professional appearance.

“It’s part of being a proud BRI™-AHS student. The logos help students express themselves, it gives the uniform flair,” said Principal Albert Stolte. “That’s what the logo flair’s about. It’s about fun. Look, we want you to express yourself, ok? You do want to express yourself, don’t you?”

 

Back in the early 21st century, less than a decade after the school opened, there were no uniforms at BRI™-AHS, but there was a dress code. Though not nearly as limiting as BRI™-AHS’s current uniforms, students complained so frequently that the Phoenix Flyer archives are rife with articles complaining about student dress code complaints.

“Quit griping and get dressed,” said former reporter Juliana Hale in one 2011 opinion piece, “the policy does not affect our school spirit.”

Many of today’s students vehemently concur, citing the wider range of options available to first decade BRI™-AHS students.

“What a bunch of whiny noobs they were,” said BRI™-AHS student Eddie Chaco. “They didn’t have to pretend to like any of the school sponsors, and they didn’t even have to wear a uniform.”

Even more common are the complaints about outdated technology in classroom. While high schools in more affluent areas can boast the fastest laptop to brain-mod upload technology, BRI™-AHS has only recently caught up to the latest gear of the early 21st century.

“The software I need for my students doesn’t work on these computers,” said BRI™-AHS Adobe Technical Design teacher Benjamin Weisz. “Nothing is compatible with Windows 7 anymore.”

Many students are aiming for careers that simply require an understanding of more advanced technology than the school provides. This learning gap is proving frustrating for those who want to get ahead.

“I’ll probably be some kind of scientist living in a space lab in space, ending world hunger, making dolphins speak, that kind of thing,” said senior Yon Boultin. “But with the computers I have to work with at school, there’s no way I’ll be prepared for that. I’ll probably have to settle for something boring like helping the military fine tune their robot division.”

The school hasn’t changed much in terms of keeping up with current technology, first decade BRI™-AHS  students Chris Lu, Dustin Werran, and Nathan Redon, now CEOs of Applesoft, Dr.Coker and Dorito-Lays, respectively, even went as far as building their own computers in desperation.

As with the first decade students dress code problem, today’s students are unsympathetic to their past cause.

“So their primitive technology was slightly more primitive than other schools, so what?” said Bello. “Our so called technology at school is literally a century behind the times, it doesn’t even look the same as the current tech.”

Other students are less concerned, and even happy to have what they call “retro” technology.

“I think it’s marvelous that we’re still working with this vintage stuff,” said student John Sorgen. “New technology is so mainstream.”

Climbing to New Heights

Climbers enjoy the towering walls at the new Vertical World location in Ballard.

Vertical World, a climbing gym chain, opened its newest location in Seattle on December 20th, revealing taller climbing walls and three times the bouldering space.

Dubbed “Vertical World Seattle 4.0,” the new gym features 50 ft lead climbing walls, more bouldering space, and a bigger, more comfortable facility.

 

“There’s three floors,” said Vertical World President Rich Johnston, “[the third] floor’s for workout, the second floor is kids only, we have a nice lounge area and expanded bouldering.”

For beginners, the higher walls may seem intimidating, but rest assured that all levels of ability can find routes to climb at the new facility.

“For newer climbers, there’s not much of a difference except there’s a lot more area to learn,” said AHS senior and local rock climber, Peter Keckemet. “For experienced climbers, there’s so many higher level routes to climb, it’s just a lot better for training.”

The new climbing gym is aimed at a wider audience, and can accommodate more than just climbers.

“There’s more of a community aspect with all these different layers,” said Johnston. “We have a 3,000 square foot room that can be a meeting room, or a yoga room.”

The new facility has been met with an enthusiastic response, both from pre-existing members and new customers.

“Considering that we didn’t publicize the opening,” said Johnston, “we just kinda let our members know, we were a little surprised by the response. It was a lot more than we expected.”

The opening in December brought in holiday crowds, but luckily the larger facility can handle the rush.

“At first the crowds were kinda ridiculous,” said Keckemet. “I was climbing at like eight in the morning or midweek day just to try to avoid crowds. There’s still crowds but there’s so much stuff to climb that it’s really not a big deal.”

Saving Your Semester

AHS junior Danika Drugge gets her work done early, staying organized to maintain good grades. Photo by Austin McHenry

While some students can pat themselves on the back for a job well done after quarter grades were sent home, others still have a great deal of work to do before semester grades are finalized in January. Whether students are hoping to earn a coveted A in their AP class or are just hoping to pass, they need to change how they study in order to improve their grade.

 The first step is figuring out what went wrong. To improve grades, students need to avoid making the same mistakes that hurt their grades in the first place.

 “It shouldn’t be a matter of raising the grade. It’s a question of why did the grade fall in the first place. Most of the effort should be done on the prevention side, because trying to raise your scores after the fact is very difficult,” said AHS teacher Nik Joshi.

 For many students, the problem is getting distracted while they’re studying. According to Director of Burien Sylvan Learning Center, Jenny Haaland, M.Ed., distractions can be far more problematic than students might believe.

 “You can make a half-hour long homework assignment turn in to three or four hours if you’re checking Facebook, if you have the TV on in the background, talking to friends, or texting in between,” said Haaland. “You think, ‘oh, it’ll just take me a second,’ but you’re actually distracting your mind from what you’re doing.”

 Some students fall behind because they procrastinate on school work. For chronic procrastinators, waiting until the last minute on assignments can be a habit that leads to both stress and lower quality work.

 “The quality of work is a lot better when you don’t have to rush. When you get things done early you have more time to do things that you want to do, like hang out with friends or listen to music,” said AHS junior Danika Drugge.

 Turning in a significantly higher quality of work is necessary to improve grades. This means spending more time and effort on assignments.

 “If you’re getting C’s on your papers, and you want to get a higher score, then the process of drafting and getting feedback and editing that paper before it’s due becomes really important. You can’t just get another C paper, that’s not going to raise your grade, you have to get an A paper to raise your grade. You have to do what A students do, and they edit their papers, they come up with new ideas. They’re thinking about it more, in a more complex way,” said AHS humanities teacher Marcie Wombold.

 However, procrastinating can be a difficult habit to beat. Breaking the habit is a matter of individual discipline and setting limits.

According to Haaland, the key to avoiding procrastination is to form a habit of getting work done early.

“It takes thirty consecutive days–thirty days without stopping once–to create a habit,” said Haaland, “You have to train it out of yourself.”

For students that don’t know what led to their poor grades, their teachers are an excellent resource.

“Many teachers are available for extra help or for feedback or to check, ‘Am I on the right track?’ and very few students actually take us up on that,” said Wombold, “It’s my A students who ask me ‘Are my notes complete?’ or, ‘Am I getting this idea correctly?’ and it shows in their performance, because if they’re not, I can redirect them.”

When students ask for help, they should bring in graded tests and assignments. This helps teachers understand what they need help with and provide more useful feedback as a result.

Students also need to communicate with teachers sooner rather than later. Whether they’re asking for an extension, or just asking for help, the sooner students tell teachers about problem, the more likely it is that it’s not too late.

“Be proactive, if you have a question, go ask for help,” said Joshi, “Asking a question in a panic the morning before a test is not the right time to be asking the question.”

Studying with peers can also help students understand what they’re missing.

“We are verbal creatures, we talk about movies we like and the music that we like, and the events we’re experiencing, so talk about what you’re learning in class,” said Wombold, “It will help solidify it for you.”

Getting organized is the most important step to getting on track. Not only does it help students stay on top of assignments, it saves them time overall.

“Students should be more organized because it just makes life easier,” said Drugge. “Instead of spending an hour looking for things, they could be using their time to do more important things.”

If better grades aren’t motivation enough, students can think of it in terms of spending less time doing homework.

“You work hard all the time, and if you work smarter with the time that you use, then you’ll be able to have more fun in it, and find that balance between working hard and playing hard,” said Wombold. “It’s important to have downtime too… you’re not having fun when you’re procrastinating. So plan fun, and plan work.”

For most students, getting organized means using a planner. Some may find that a virtual one such as Google Calendar is more useful to them. Not only is Google Calendar accessible anywhere, it can sync with smart phones, to help keep users on track.

“What’s great about the virtual calendar—I live off my virtual calendar—is you can create repeating events, and even set alarms,” said Haaland, “So then your phone will go off and remind you that you should be studying right now.”

Raising grades is an individual process and requires students to be honest with themselves about the effort they’re putting into their classes.

“I think every student knows in their heart when they’re studying effectively, and when they’re not,” said Joshi. “It’s a matter of having the maturity to admit it to themselves and to act on it.”

AP Science Cancellation Causes Confusion

Broken beakers and test tubes are a normality in class.

A student from the class of 2012 works his way through junior year chemistry, so he can take AP Chemistry his senior year. He could have gone the physics route, but chose chemistry for the challenge it’s known for, and as an impressive addition to his transcript. Another student eagerly awaits taking AP Environmental Science her senior year, after she’s through taking required science classes. Come this year, both these seniors are out of luck, because AP Chemistry and AP Environmental Science were discontinued this year.

Sound unfair? Try this one: Administrators work hard every year to offer the right classes, talking to students about what they want, while simultaneously fulfilling state and district requirements, preparing students for college and careers, and balancing a complicated master schedule. But when the new school year starts, students throw off class sizes by taking Running Start, and cause the school to lose funding by taking additional classes at other high schools. This loss of funding makes it even more difficult for administrators to offer the programs that students need. That’s not fair either.

This is the mess created in the wake of the loss of AP Chemistry and AP Environmental Sciences.

According to former Assistant Director of STEM Leadership, and current instructor of Student Inquiry and Research, Scott McComb, the decision resulted from trying to find the best way to prepare students for upper level science.

“We took a good hard look last spring at the courses we were offering, and we were looking at whether students are well prepared for AP Chemistry,” said McComb, “when you think about it, the students who could take AP Chemistry are a relatively small group. They must have taken chemistry as juniors, they must have done well, and they must be interested in taking AP Chemistry, and they should have a reasonable chance at success on the test.”

 

At AHS, the group of students who can take AP chemistry is even smaller than in a large comprehensive school. Large comprehensive high schools often offer an intro to chemistry class that paves the way for AP Chemistry later on. At AHS, all ninth graders take Physical Science and Physics of Flight, a course focused on meteorology, physics and astronomy, which means they miss this introduction.

“The idea about kids being prepared for college level chemistry makes an awful lot of sense, particularly at a STEM based school,” said McComb, “the trick is helping them all get ready in one year.”

This challenge to better prepare students eventually led AHS to offer a new course this year instead of AP Chemistry that will help them do this. Science Inquiry and Research allows students to actually have an internship in their chosen science discipline.

“The idea behind that course, is to connect students with internships, either in the industry, or in academia, where students can pursue something of high interest and high value to them specifically,” explained McComb. “When we talk about AP Chemistry, at the end you take a test and you get either a big smiley face, or a big frowny face, it’s my hope with this new course… you’ll get experience with working professionals in areas of particular interest to each of the students involved.”

Flash forward to this year. Without AP Chemistry and AP Environmental Science, students are concerned with the discontinuation of two of three AP science classes. These are common concerns considering Aviation is a school that focuses on STEM education and college readiness. In fact, AP Physics is now the only AP Science class offered at AHS.

“I just want AHS to live up to what it claims to be, a STEM and college prep school. And right now, I feel that it is slowly straying away from its title as a STEM, college prep, and lighthouse school,” said AHS student Anthea Phuong, “I am a proud student of AHS and I want to keep it that way.”

To concerns like these,  Assistant Director of STEM Leadership, Bruce Kelly, responds that the focus of AHS first and foremost is aviation and aerospace. As a small school, its course offerings are less flexible than that of a larger school.

“I think a couple things to consider, is that this is a small school model, and that operates a lot differently than a four year comprehensive plan.” explained Kelly, “It’s a very different dynamic, and with that said, there’s a lot of moving pieces in making sure kids are prepared for a career in aviation or aerospace; that’s what the school’s about.” He later added, “It might help to realize, just stepping back for a moment, that there’s a lot more to the puzzle than I think some people realize.”

Other students have reacted to the cancellation of AP Chemistry by taking some of their classes through a community college. While not as common at AHS, the Running Start program allows students to expand their options for college level science, while still enrolled at AHS.

“AP classes are supposed to represent what a college environment is like, but actual college classes are more challenging than AP,” says Liam Wingard, who is in Running Start at Tacoma Community College, “for procrastinators, it is hell; but for the focused, it is a chance to shine. Whether or not you like the college experience is personal preference, but I think it beats high school by five orders of magnitude.”

Phuong, along with a few other AHS students, has found an alternative at Highline High School. HHS offers an AP Biology class at 7:20 am, well before AHS starts first period. For Phuong, taking AP Biology is an important first step for a possible bioengineering or biotech career.

“I believed that it would be highly beneficial for me, since I’m interested in going into a bio-related career field. It really bummed me out that AHS didn’t offer a better variety of AP science classes,” said Phuong, “I saw HHS as my opportunity!”

School administration strongly discourage students from taking AP Biology at Highline High School. Phuong is at a loss to understand why this policy is in place, but the issue is more complicated than a simple question of what students want.

From Carper’s perspective, taking AP Biology at Highline means that because other schools get credit for their enrollment, AHS programs get less funding. This is an ongoing problem for AHS, students taking AP Biology is only the latest example.

“As much as I understand why students want to do that, it puts Aviation High School in a tough position,” explained Carper, “funding pays for teachers, it pays for supplies, it pays for programs. We want to put the students first, but we feel like it puts other students at a disadvantage when we don’t get funding.”

Considering that students being enrolled at other high schools costs AHS $10,601 per student, according to the schools 2009-10 performance report,  it’s no wonder administrators want students to take their classes at AHS. However, this conflict has created frustration in students who wanted to take AP Biology. As a student who wanted to take it, Phuong is very aggravated by this policy.

“I was outraged and very frustrated! I don’t care that they don’t like the idea,” said Phuong, “I should be able to take classes that are not offered at AHS. All students should.”

Carper understands this point of view, but stresses that class scheduling is a highly complex process, which takes into account student interest as well as state requirements, teacher accreditation and college entrance requirements. This system is made even more complicated because of Aviation’s small student body.

“The advantages of being in a small school are many; but one of the disadvantages is that we can’t offer every single class that a large school can offer. We have to take into account who we are at Aviation High School, what makes sense to offer, and what students need,” Carper pointed out, “As much as I care about what AP students want, I also care about what non-AP students need and may benefit from as well.”

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