Manassas school officials sent out letters last week to 224 Osbourn High School students enrolled in honors courses encouraging them convert to an Advanced Placement course instead.
This fall, five honors courses can be switched to Advanced Placement if the student chooses. The courses are: United States/Virginia history, senior-level government, calculus, English and art.
A student who has been through an AP course is better prepared for college, said Osbourn High School principal Perry Pope.
The difference between honors and AP courses is the demand of each. An AP course offers college-level credit.
Honors and AP courses are “weighted” meaning a student can earn a quality point to the grade point average if at least a “C” average is achieved.
For example, a student who gets an “A” in a regular class has the equivalent to a 4.0. An honors student would have a .5 added for a 4.5 average. An AP student has one quality point added for a 5.0 average, according to Pope.
When all the course averages are added and divided by the number of courses the student takes, the accumulative GPA is determined, Pope pointed out.
“The colleges are very selective about the students they’re going to pick,” Pope said.
Last year, 126 students took 230 AP exams last year, according to Sandy Thompson, director of instructional services.
It would not cost the student to make the switch to enroll in an AP course. The school division pays for the AP test administered at the end of the course, Thompson said.
Manassas school officials have plans to offer more AP courses this fall in an effort to be more competitive with surrounding school jurisdictions. School officials are also encouraging more minority students and females to enroll in AP courses, Thompson said.
School superintendent Chip Zullinger believes AP is one of the most rigorous curriculums that can be put in place at a high school, he said in an interview Wednesday.
“We are trying to encourage more kids to take AP offerings,” Zullinger said. “I think we got to look at ways to continue to challenge more of them than we have been.”
Not enough opportunity has been provided for students to take AP courses, Zullinger said.
“Not nearly enough of our minorities are in AP or honors courses,” he said.
School officials reviewed 2002 PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test results in relation to how many students could have been taking AP courses. It’s a predictor of how the students would achieve in an AP course, Thompson said.
For example, 23 students were in AP English last year but 165 could have been taking AP classes, according to the school division’s results.
In another example, 19 students were in AP Calculus but a possible 48 more could have handled the AP course load, according to the results.
School officials also reviewed the state’s Standards of Learning test results and 2002-03 PSAT/SAT results to determine probability more students would succeed in AP courses, if opted for the choice.
Thompson said letters, which were sent July 25, are expected to be returned with a response by early next week. The responses will determine the interest and chance of all five honors courses converting over to AP.
“These are very easy conversions for us to be able to make,” Zullinger said.
Osbourn will offer two new AP courses this year for a total of 12. Fifteen honors courses will be offered this year, according to Osbourn’s course catalog.
Psychology showed enough interest to be offered as an AP-level course this year. European history will also be an AP course, Pope said.
Pope is hopeful more AP courses will be offered during the 2004-05 year such as junior level AP English composition and AP probability and statistics, which is not currently offered as an AP course.
Staff writer Jennifer Brennan can be reached at (703) 368-3101.