WOOSTER – A recent announcement by Wooster City Schools that some advanced courses will be canceled next school year has sparked debate in the school community about what the district should offer, what it can offer and what is feasible.
The bottom line, said Board of Education member Danielle Schantz, “This is a public school that must serve all enrolled students.”
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Schantz made the statement during the April 26 school board meeting, when a student contacted the board, upset over cuts he said would hurt his college plans. Comments from others who were not present were read at the meeting.
Advanced Placement Research, AP Biology, AP Physics 2, and AP Stats are among the courses on the chopping block.
Balancing student needs with a variety of educational options
Superintendent Gabe Tudor said the district is trying to balance the needs of “what I would call our elite academics” with those who “may have a different focus and needs.”
He dispelled the belief of some that college credit plus courses are emphasized over AP in high school.
“We value CCP no more than AP,” Tudor said, noting that the option chosen depends on a student’s goals.
“If you go to liberal arts college, CCP probably isn’t a good option,” he said. “If you’re going to Kent, CCP is probably a pretty good option for you.”
Schantz pointed out that the district offers a challenging general education course along with AP and CCP courses. And the Wayne County Schools Career Center is another option for “many more students than we identify.”
If there are 25 to 30 students in an algebra 1 class, she said, “we need more sections of algebra 1, not more sections of AP bio.”
Schantz went on to advise newly hired high school principal Scott Musser, who was in the audience, that the goal should be to serve all students and provide a variety of classes while making sure “we don’t treat our students like that separated so much that they would never sit in a class with a student who is having trouble learning.”
The community is responding to Wooster City Schools’ plan to cut some AP courses
After The Daily Record’s story about the course selection change broke, CEO Sue Herman said at the board meeting, “I’ve received a lot of phone calls about this.”
The Wooster schools require a minimum enrollment of 15 students for a course to be offered – a new rule for next year.
Kate Frichtl submitted comments, which were read to the board by Heidi Haas, director of the Studentenwerk.
Frichtl’s son had planned to take AP Biology but was unable to enroll because AP Bio students had to take regular biology first as a requirement.
Frichtl also said in her prepared comments that she spoke to admissions advisors at several colleges during visits to her daughter.
They told her, “…if your high school offers both AP and CCP instruction, they prefer AP because it’s more rigorous, and they like to see the student choose the most rigorous option offered.”
Since the shortened courses remain listed in the university catalogue, the universities could assume that the students did not choose the more difficult option, emphasized Frichtl.
Acknowledging the administration’s concerns about “smaller class sizes in the genetic population,” Frichtl asked in a follow-up email, “If they need to cut courses, have they considered cutting CCP Bio instead of AP Bio?”
She wants the new prerequisite rule revised, stating that it is “superfluous to make one entry-level college biology (CCP bio) course a prerequisite for another entry-level college biology (AP bio) course.”
If the district makes certain courses available every two years, as suggested at the meeting, it should be done before the break in classes so students have “the opportunity to plan their courses,” Frichtl said.
The student explains why advanced biology and statistics are important
High school junior Jacob Hannan, who is pursuing a career in healthcare, told the board he did well in AP biology without first taking another biology.
“The requirement was added without warning, Hannan said, and very few students who wanted to take AP biology had already completed the requirement,” accounting for the low enrollment projected for the 2022-2023 school year.
AP stats “give me recognition at almost every American college or university, something the CCP stats just don’t provide,” Hannan said.
Academically, he said, the AP stat is “a significant course in improving my literacy through academic study, a skill that will come in handy in pretty much any course I’ll ever take in the future.”
Parent Adam Keating’s comments, presented to the board, recognized that not all students need or want advanced mediation courses, but AP classes “signal families considering moving into the community about the opportunities and rigors that our.” schools provide.”
Keating also pointed to the problem of the high school course catalog making it appear to colleges that these courses are available to students even though they have been discontinued.
In an email after the meeting, Kristin Keating commended Wooster’s administrators and teachers for making “tough decisions” to provide all students with the best opportunities for a comprehensive education.
She said her three sons — Classes of 2020, 2022 and 2023 — have enjoyed opportunities in AP, CCP and honors classes, in addition to elective classes and extracurricular activities ranging from speech and debate and drama to band, robotics and biomedical sciences were enough.
However, she is concerned that there was insufficient communication with parents before planning this year.
Direct-entry physical therapy doctoral programs that one of her sons applies to see not only the grades and test scores, she said, but also the rigor of the schedule.
“Some of the programs that he’s applying to only have places for 16 new freshmen,” said Kristin Keating. If he hadn’t been able to do an AP bio this year, he wouldn’t have been as competitive.
District adding personnel in areas of need
One of the issues related to course cancellations is the proposal to hire additional teachers.
Tudor said the district is adding staff in areas that need it, including school psychology and counseling. The district also hired a board-certified behavior analyst, another third-grade teacher at Cornerstone Elementary, and two administrators.
He understands the frustration expressed over canceled courses and said some of them, including AP literature, could be added back for the coming year.
Herman, a retired Wooster High teacher, said she would prefer a student to earn a B in an AP course than an A in a CCP course.
“We are a school that says we support academic excellence,” she said.
In a follow-up email, high school interim principal Eric Vizzo outlined steps being taken by the counseling department to help students, such as holding weekly meetings with college officials, using official websites to determine how AP and CCP courses credits and contacting colleges to review credit policies related to AP, CCP and IB with admissions officers, Vizzo said.
“All of these things then feed into the one-to-one, one-to-one conversations that our advisors have with each student,” he said, “to make sure all WHS students have what they need to graduate from high school and to visit a facility of their choice. “