The Alexandria School Board passed a new regulation requiring students who are enrolled in an Advanced Placement course at T. C. Williams High School to take the Advanced Placement exam.
"This brings us into line with all of the surrounding jurisdictions,” said Mark Eaton, the chair of the Board’s curriculum committee, at their Jan. 15 meeting.
The courses are taught as college-level classes and, by earning a score of three or better on the exam, students can obtain college credit while they are still in high school. AP classes in biology, chemistry, physics, history, government, calculus, statistics, English and some foreign languages are offered. Any student who wishes to take tan AP class may do so. No prior test is required.
“I really think that we should have some way of screening students better before they enroll in these classes,” said Charles Wilson, a member of the Board. “Students should have a real possibility of success in these courses before they register for them.”
Most of Wilson’s colleagues disagreed with him. “One of the really good things about these courses is that they are open to any student who feels that he or she can succeed in them,” said Board member Molly Danforth. “I would hope that we don’t change that policy.”
THE AP EXAM costs $80 and is designed and administered by the College Board. “If we make the exam mandatory, the state requires that we pay for it,” Eaton said. The superintendent added $70,000 to her proposed operating budget for next year for this purpose.
Eaton recommended that teachers receive additional training for these courses. “If a teacher is going to teach an AP course, that teacher should receive regular training on the course material and, I would hope, that we would consider historical pass rates on these exams as one performance evaluation mechanism for teachers,” he said.
The new policy will be implemented next year.
SCHOOL CALENDAR DAYS CHANGED
The Board also adopted next year’s academic calendar. The biggest change was the deletion of Columbus Day as a student holiday and the addition of Veteran’s Day as a teacher holiday. In the past, teachers have worked on Veteran’s Day while students have had the day off.
“It seems ridiculous to give students the day off to celebrate our veterans and make veterans who happen to be teachers work,” said Board member Kenneth Foran. “We needed to change this policy.”
Instead of having a teacher work day on Veteran’s Day, teachers will be given a teacher work day on the Friday following Veteran’s Day. The Columbus Day holiday will be used as an extra day off at the beginning of the winter break, which will be shorter next year because of when Christmas and New Year fall.