Local high-schools enjoy options for advanced classes

Published 10:28 am Friday, February 24, 2012

By MOLLY DUETT

News Intern

More high school students each year are given the choice to find ways to gain a head start on their college credit before even graduating from high school. The two main choices at Bainbridge High School are taking Advance Placement (AP) courses or enrolling in one of the joint programs the high school has with Bainbridge College.

Currently at Bainbridge High School, there are 123 students taking AP courses and 43 taking post-secondary option (PSO) courses at Bainbridge College. Out of those students, 18 are taking both AP and PSO courses.

“Students generally enroll in programs based on their strengths,” said Debbie Williams assistant principal at Bainbridge High School. “The admissions offices at the competitive universities, including UGA, consider the number of AP classes an applicant takes in high school as a leading admissions criteria. They do not place the same value on college courses.”

At Bainbridge College for fall 2011, 96 students from 10 area schools participated in four major programs at the college that serve as post-secondary options. The four programs are the ACCEL program, the Move On When Ready program, dual enrollment and joint enrollment.

“It’s really about what is the best for them — what’s the best step,” said Dr. Richard Carvajal, president of Bainbridge College. “In most cases, students that are extremely involved in the high school, whether it’s sports or being in band, they really don’t desire to spend part of the school day away from school.

“In those cases, if they’re ready, then taking AP courses is a great way to start trying to accumulate college credit. Most, not all, but most colleges will accept AP credit.”

Many teachers of AP classes at Bainbridge High School believe that the standardization of the AP classes through the College Board helps with admissions to higher competitive colleges. Before teaching an AP class, an instructor will have to get certified by the College Board, and the College Board writes the AP exams.

“AP classes are structured differently than college classes in several ways,” said Dr. Heidi Chambers, AP English Literature and Composition teacher. “Perhaps the most obvious way is that the AP classes meet daily, while many college classes only meet twice a week. Also, from my experience, students have more [graded assignments and tests] in an AP class than in a typical college class.”

AP Calculus teacher Cindy Williams also believes that the rigor or AP courses helps prepare high school students for college.

“Because of the rigor, I believe students are better prepared for the pressures of college coursework, especially if carrying a full college load, than those students who never take an AP class,” Williams said. “It is better to experience this pressure while still in the ‘comfort of home’ and learn how to cope, than to wait until your freshman year of college and collapse under the pressure.

According to written responses from students in Dr. Joan Beer’s AP English Language and Composition course, many students feel that the rigor of the courses is what ultimately helps them to learn more information.

“Taking AP classes gives you something more to work for,” said BHS student Caroline New. “You’re not just earning a high school credit, you also have the chance to get some college out of the way. It gives me more incentive to learn.”

Carvajal said that many of the students that participate at the programs at Bainbridge College get the chance to experience college life sooner.

“We have a lot of students that for them they’re just eager to move to get a college experience,” Carvajal said. “They want to be in a college classroom with other college students and experience what it’s like to be on a college campus.

“They seem to be not as directly tied with a need to be on a high school campus due to activities. For those students, some type of dual-enrollment programs are a fantastic option.”

The Southern Association of Colleges accredits the classes at Bainbridge College and Bainbridge High School, and they will be accepted at most colleges and universities that recognize that accreditation.

“We see ourselves as a partner in making sure that the student reaches their goals,” Carvajal said. “We’re glad that we have this opportunity; we think it’s a great opportunity for the students and their families to get a head start on college at very low cost to them.”