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WOOSTER – Holding the City Schools to the district’s pledge of academic excellence is the aim of several Wooster High students who have been vocal about their derailed academic plans for their senior year.
Jacob Hannan, Brendan French and Gabriel Thompson are among 32 students who won’t get to take some of the advanced placement courses they had hoped to add to their schedules for the 2022-’23 school year.
School administrators and department heads recently determined that for a course to be offered next year, including AP classes, a minimum enrollment of 15 students for each course is required.
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The courses to be dropped in the coming school year are British literature, advanced placement research, AP biology, AP physics 2, AP stats and College Credit Plus Spanish, Wooster High’s Interim Principal Eric Vizzo said in an email.
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Hannan, a junior, said the decision appeared to be sudden, thwarting his goal to follow up his AP seminar with AP research.
Hannan said he had hoped to advance his skills and demonstrate to potential colleges his ability to develop original research.
French, also a junior, had strategized a path to graduation replete with advanced placement classes on his way to a college degree in engineering.
His goal is to take two or three AP classes per year.
While concentrating in the area of math, he missed his opportunity to take AP biology as a sophomore because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is frustrating, he said, is the addition of a new requirement to make regular biology a prerequisite for AP biology.
Hannan believes AP biology should be open to anyone able to compete in the class.
“I got stuck in regular bio,” French said, unable to enroll in College Credit Plus biology because he had not yet taken the ACT.
Another source of irritation for French is that an A in the AP class would have given him a 5.0 toward his grade point average instead of a 4.0.
CCP and AP courses each have a 5.0 scale, Superintendent Gabe Tudor said, adding, some CCP courses are only a semester long, as determined by the college.
“Ohio law requires that students that complete a CCP course receive one full high school credit,” Tudor said.
Thompson, a junior, said, “I’m disappointed that I can’t take AP stats next year because it’s an important credit that I can’t use in college. “I also don’t want to take another year of calculus in substitution.”
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“I find it depressing the school is cutting AP classes instead of hiring new teachers,” Thompson said in an email.
“I wish they hadn’t cut the classes that could help kids get into a prestigious college,” he said, adding, “I am confused as to why they are cutting AP classes and steering kids to take CCP.”
Minimum class sizes
Vizzo acknowledged that the minimum requirement for class sizes is new for next year. He said the district wanted to balance course offerings and be fiscally responsible with the use of staff.
Scheduling classes with minimal enrollees results in larger class sizes for other courses with a higher number of requests, Vizzo said.
Rising seniors can seek the advice of counselors on an individual basis “as their plans vary widely,” Vizzo said.
“Nothing has been dropped permanently,” Tudor said.
And he explained that the bulk of students had little interest in the courses being dropped. For example, fewer than five students requested AP physics II and AP biology, Tudor said.
If a teacher were to be assigned to a class with four students, that teacher would be unavailable to split a larger class into another section, Tudor explained.
The decision was not made because of a reduction of teachers, he said, adding, “This is not due to budget cuts.”
“We still feel we have very robust courses,” Tudor said, noting all students, not just those taking AP or CCP courses, should expect high quality instruction.
“In reality, (there are) a lot of good conversations and things to consider,” Tudor said.
“I understand the reasons behind some of the decisions being made,” Hannan said, but wants the district to “try to bolster enrollment” in advanced classes rather than cutting them.
French suggested “an incentive to take harder classes.”
Hannan and some of his classmates believe the district’s elimination of some AP courses next year is undercutting its academic excellence.
Wooster High School still compares favorably in its breadth of high-level courses in comparison to other high schools, according to Vizzo.
“The average high school the size of WHS offers eight to nine AP courses,” Vizzo said in an email. “We will be running 17.”
A letter about course selection sent on March 18 to Wooster families said the high school also provides more than 80 elective courses.
This school year and the previous school year, Vizzo said, 21 AP courses were offered.
“Approximately 50-60% of our students enroll in some level of an advanced course,” which includes honors, AP, International Baccalaureate and CCP, Vizzo said. “About 18% of our students have enrolled in CCP for next year.”