Many students do the minimum at school. Their courses aren’t particularly challenging, and they find they can slide by with B’s and C’s. Should these students be registering for honors classes? What about AP or IB classes? In my opinion, they would get more out of school and their futures by challenging themselves. In many school districts, students are pigeonholed as regular or advanced, categories that don’t necessarily reflect their true abilities. In 1998, Fairfax County changed the rules to allow any student to sign up for advanced classes. The result was that students rose to the occasion and did very well.
When my daughter was a senior in high school, she registered for a regular government class because history was always a weak subject for her. She was not doing well in this class at all, so, using her own logic, she decided to switch to an AP Government class. Because this class had interesting discussions and challenging material, she excelled.
You may have seen rankings of high schools by US News and World Report. Their rankings are based primarily on proficiency in basic skills, obtained from standardized test scores, and college readiness. One of the factors of college readiness is the school’s number of students enrolled in at least one AP or IB course and the number of students who received at least a 3 on the AP test or 4 on the IB test. Oakton High School ranks #4 in Virginia. 83% of its students are enrolled in at least one AP course. Click here
to see the 6 criteria they use.
I argue that not only does challenging yourself in high school prepare you better for college, it also prepares you better for the future work environment. In any job, employees who put in extra effort and come up with new ideas will tend to excel in their careers.
In the Washington DC suburbs, we are fortunate that our schools offer a plethora of AP and IB courses, meaning that every student will find something of interest. You can start with just one in 10th or 11th grade and see how it goes. Some of these courses require a tremendous amount of time and commitment, but others are very manageable. It is important for students to discuss which advanced classes to register for with their counselors. Changes in course selection can usually made throughout the spring. So help your children rise to the occasion by challenging themselves and improving their college readiness with advanced classes. Remember, school is for learning as much as possible and for finding what interests you.