Archive for Thursday, January 20, 2005

USD 232 to offer advanced placement classes

January 20, 2005

Advanced placement courses will debut at De Soto High School this fall.

After getting the go-ahead from De Soto USD 232 Board of Education members Monday night, advanced placement, or AP, art and AP government and politics will be on the school's schedule for the 2005-2006 academic year.

The addition means that students who complete those courses will be eligible to take an advanced placement test in the same subject. Good scores on the national, standardized tests translate to college credit for that subject.

De Soto high schools presently offer College Now courses for several subjects in collaboration with Johnson County Community College. Students may get college credit through JCCC for completing those classes, but credits must be transferred and approved to be applied toward a different school. Advanced placement courses are more universal.

The new classes are part of an effort to expand the honors program district-wide, said Bret Church, USD 232 secondary curriculum coordinator.

De Soto High School has received some criticism from high-achieving students and their parents because the school lacked advanced placement opportunities, said principal David Morford. However, he said the school would start small in growing the program.

"This is kind of the first step for us into the process," the principal said. "We felt like we needed to crawl before we walked."

Besides College Now offerings, the school has some honors classes, like honors English, but those are in-house, Morford said. AP courses would benefit college-bound students even more because, in addition to being challenging, they align with national standards.

Church said the district looked to add one core academic class and balance it with one special elective at each of the district's two high schools.

Art and government were the best choices to pioneer the De Soto High School's advanced placement program, Church said.

Both programs could be expanded to include advanced placement curriculum with no extra staff -- existing teachers were willing and qualified to teach the program -- and each aligns closely with curriculum already in place at the school.

Perhaps most importantly, planners expected student interest.

"One of the key components is making sure you have an interest in the student body," Church said. "You have to have somebody attend the class."

Advanced placement art is an especially unique inclusion among most high schools, Church said. Few others offer it, but De Soto's existing art program provided a perfect springboard for the class.

Besides lots of interest among students wishing to pursue art after graduation, Kansas Teacher of the Year nominee Tim Mispagel is an eager and able instructor, Church said.

"He is extremely qualified," Church said. "He'd just be a great person to do this."

One requirement of the AP art class is that students must create a portfolio of their work, a must-have for professional-track artists.

The advanced placement government class will fill the regular graduation requirement in the subject. However, content will be at a college level, and the course will require more outside work than a regular class.

Mill Valley also will offer AP government and politics this fall. The advanced placement elective chosen for that school is parenting and child development.

Like De Soto's art program, Mill Valley's existing family and consumer science program, as well as student interest, made parenting and child development a fitting addition for that school, Church said.

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