Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Education

Pinellas could make honors classes worth less than AP, IB

Pinellas education officials are quietly considering making honors classes less valuable toward students' grade-point averages than more challenging college-level courses also offered at high schools.

Under the current system, honors, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and dual-enrollment courses are all weighted on a 5.0 scale. Regular classes are worth a point less, with an "A" earning a 4.0.

But superintendent Michael Grego told the Tampa Bay Times that he'll speak with guidance counselors and high school principals about possibly changing the weighting system, putting honors classes somewhere between regular and college-level courses.

"The weight should be commensurate to the difficulty of the course," Grego said.

While the proposed change may seem small, it could have a big impact on students competing for class-ranking spots and scholarships. It also could prompt more students to sign up for Advanced Placement classes as soon as this fall.

School Board Chairwoman Carol Cook said she could see the board taking up the matter before the start of next school year. She said she would support a change only if it began with incoming freshmen, so that students already partially through their high school careers wouldn't be affected.

The School Board first would put together a committee to study the issue, Cook said. "I'm thinking it's probably not going to take that long; they're going to say, 'Yeah, honors courses are designed to be more rigorous than regular courses but not as rigorous as AP,' so I think it would be a fairly easy decision to make."

Pinellas could make this happen by either increasing the weight of AP, IB and dual-enrollment courses or decreasing the value of honors courses. Several school officials discussed a scenario in which the honors grading scale could go as high as 4.5 points, instead of five.

Hillsborough County public schools already differentiates between honors and college-level courses, with students earning twice as many "bonus points" toward their GPAs for AP, IB and dual-enrollment classes. Several other large districts, including Palm Beach County, also award fewer points to honors classes.

At a School Board workshop last week, a handful of students asked Grego and the School Board why college-level classes, intended to be more difficult, counted the same toward their GPAs as honors classes.

Grego, who became superintendent in September, said he had not realized the classes received the same weight. Cook said she had not known that the School Board could change the system.

Linda Lerner, who has served on the board for 23 years, said the issue had never been raised during that time. The question came up "probably because there are many more students taking AP classes now," Lerner said.

The district's high school students filled 10,773 seats in AP courses last year (some students took multiple classes).

"There has been a real push in the district to get students into AP classes, so that could be part of it," Lerner added.

Lerner said she'd like to hear more about the pros and cons of a policy shift, while School Board member Terry Krassner said she has reservations.

Krassner said her children always told her that earning college credit was the added incentive to take AP classes — not the extra grading point. She said she was unsure that tweaking the course weight was necessary.

Some parents said they were concerned that demoting honors courses could have unintended consequences.

Tanya Repka, the mother of a junior at Seminole High School and a freshman at Osceola High, said students might stop taking difficult honors courses like Anatomy of Physiology — concluding: Why take a hard class if it's not going to pay off?

"They do oral exams, they have to stand up there and be grilled on their ability to point through the skeleton and get the stuff right, right then. . . . Everybody knows it's hard. They wouldn't take it. They'd avoid it," Repka said.

Andrea Cappelli, whose daughter is a sophomore at Seminole, worried that raising the attractiveness of an AP or IB class could foster more competition among high school students already packing their resumes for college.

"I do have trouble with the degree of competition and how we're burning out our kids to get the extra point, and another extra point," Cappelli said.

But ask her daughter, 16-year-old Maddie, and you'll hear that the change makes plenty of sense.

"Kids still work hard in honors, but AP kids have to do a little extra more work," she said. "So, it'd be nice to get the extra credit."

Contact Lisa Gartner at [email protected] You can also follow her on Twitter (@lisagartner).

Comments
Today: Senate to put its own stamp on Florida education proposals

Today: Senate to put its own stamp on Florida education proposals

The massive education measure known as House Bill 7055 has received plenty of attention during the legislative session, with its emphasis on decertifying teachers’ unions and using state-backed scholarship programs to steer kids away from public scho...
Updated: 9 hours ago
50 years ago, Florida teachers walked off their jobs. Today’s union leaders are inspired

50 years ago, Florida teachers walked off their jobs. Today’s union leaders are inspired

Ulysses Floyd remembers February 1968 all too well.Teachers by the thousands walked off their jobs across Florida. Among their concerns: low pay, poor funding, a lack of planning time, missing materials, and more. "We were at the mercy of the School ...
Published: 02/19/18
ROTC leader shocked that accused school shooter 1 of his own

ROTC leader shocked that accused school shooter 1 of his own

PARKLAND, Fla. — The sound of gunfire still ringing in his ears after his mad half-mile sprint, Jack Ciaramello was standing with friends in a grocery store parking lot when a sheriff’s deputy approached. He asked the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High se...
Published: 02/18/18
From meek to militant: The Florida teachers strike that unsettled a nation and fueled a movement

From meek to militant: The Florida teachers strike that unsettled a nation and fueled a movement

Some teachers left goodbye messages to their students on classroom blackboards. Others cleared their desks.It was Feb. 16, 1968, a Friday, and a sign of what was coming that Monday in Florida: the nation’s first statewide teachers strike.When schools...
Published: 02/18/18
Principal of a pained Stoneman Douglas High just sent a message to his students

Principal of a pained Stoneman Douglas High just sent a message to his students

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High principal Ty Thompson exuded deep emotion and a positive view forward in his first public comments since Wednesday’s mass shooting that killed 17 people.In the two-minute video posted on the school’s website and YouTube,...
Published: 02/18/18
Hillsborough rethinks its strategy for struggling schools

Hillsborough rethinks its strategy for struggling schools

TAMPA — "Elevate," a Hillsborough County School District initiative that was to focus on seven troubled schools and use them as models for dozens more, is becoming but a memory as the district seeks instead to support all schools equally."We’re more ...
Published: 02/17/18
Plant High students commemorate Parkland victims with sidewalk messages

Plant High students commemorate Parkland victims with sidewalk messages

TAMPA — Students at Plant High School honored the victims of the Parkland school shooting with a series of sidewalk chalk messages.The chalk art carried a series of messages such as "How many times?" and "Do something. Protect us." according to a Fac...
Published: 02/16/18
At public schools in Tampa Bay, a day to mourn, assess and reinforce

At public schools in Tampa Bay, a day to mourn, assess and reinforce

While fielding calls from anxious parents after the Broward County high school shooting that claimed 17 lives, school officials in the Tampa Bay area took a close look Thursday at what they are doing to keep students safe.There are gates and locks an...
Published: 02/15/18
Joe Henderson: April Griffin won’t run again for school board. She says she means it this time.

Joe Henderson: April Griffin won’t run again for school board. She says she means it this time.

Assuming April Griffin follows through on her decision not to seek re-election to the Hillsborough County School Board, well, meetings just won’t be the same. Chances are they’ll just be filled with boring reports, proclamations and routine business....
Published: 02/15/18
‘I don’t get paid for teaching,’ says Pinellas teacher accused of inappropriate acts. Now he’s gone

‘I don’t get paid for teaching,’ says Pinellas teacher accused of inappropriate acts. Now he’s gone

A St. Petersburg High teacher has retired in the middle of the school year after students said he called them "baby," "babe," "missy," "honey," "sweetie," "little girl" and ended one girl’s name with "-licious."The Pinellas County school district fou...
Published: 02/15/18