1. Gradebook

Pasco County high schools consider AP options amid low student numbers

Students and teachers are trying to prevent cancellation of key courses.
Students study for Advanced Placement exams [Times | 2013]
Students study for Advanced Placement exams [Times | 2013]
Published Mar. 19, 2019

Pasco High School student Enrique Hernandez had a simple request in his email district to superintendent Kurt Browning: Please don’t let the school cancel Advanced Placement calculus for 2019-20.

“I want to take this class because I want the challenge,” Hernandez, a straight-A student in the school’s Cambridge program, told the Tampa Bay Times. “As someone who believes they may have a future in engineering, obviously taking a calculus class at a college level in high school would give me a huge leg up when I begin my post-secondary education career.”

In addition to the preparation, AP also offers the chance of earning college credits.

But Pasco High planned to cut the course because of what teacher Ronald Jones called “allocation politics” in a note to Browning and School Board member Allen Altman. The district allocates teachers to high schools on a one to 25 teacher:student ratio per class, but the school’s AP calculus appeared unlikely to meet that mark.

It’s not the only school to face such a concern, said assistant superintendent Kevin Shibley, listing Anclote, Cypress Creek, Sunlake, Wiregrass Ranch and Hudson among those that have advanced classes with “far fewer students than are expected” to fill a unit.

“No one is really interested in canceling access to these courses,” Shibley said. “But we don’t want to penalize the principals in allocations,” since the district can afford only so many teachers.

Jones told the district leaders they should find a solution that provides rigorous courses without students having to turn to online or dual enrollment options, or forcing teachers to teach two different courses at the same time to meet multiple demands. “I hope to see a resolution to this issue,” Jones told the Times. “I am sure they, too, wish to keep this valuable class.”

Shibley said the superintendent’s team has begun to evaluate options.

Some schools might offer AP courses every other year, to maintain adequate enrollment, he said.

A blended online-classroom course might also emerge, with students from multiple schools sharing one teacher who offers virtual instruction combined with campus visits. That could provide course access without requiring multiple teachers for too-small classes, Shibley said.

One thing the district wants to prevent is having students bolt to Florida Virtual, which would claim a share of per-student funding.

“If they want to take it, we definitely want to find a way to offer it,” Shibley said.

Hernandez said he hopes it doesn’t come down to him or others looking elsewhere for the course. “I believe that my current pre-calculus teacher (and hopefully future calculus teacher) would help me excel the most at this rigorous subject,” he said.