Students embrace honors options, teachers still unsure

By Julie Canon

Although East students have enjoyed the boost that the new East honors classes offer to their grade point averages, many teachers were against the implementation of these courses. For many years the option of taking a non-honors or AP versions of Chemistry and US history was offered, along with only a non-honors World History and Civics course, but this year the honors option for all of these courses is now available.
In the past, students have been very successful in both the AP and regular courses; consequently, many teachers do not understand why the district would implement the new honors classes.
“My main question is who do the new honors courses serve, and what the goal of adding the courses was.” guidance counselor Kristin Hiemstra said. “Also, has the goal of adding the new courses been met?”
While some of the East staff was confused about why these new courses are being offered, some other staffers believe the classes were offered solely to boost students GPAs.
“Saying that the new honors classes were not implemented to boost the student’s GPAs is like saying that the Civil War was not fought over slavery, it’s completely false,” social studies teacher Bob Brogden said.
Although many teachers have opinions on why the new classes have been offered, when the school board decided to implement new classes a GPA boost was not even brought up during their decision.
“The school board felt pressure from the community of Chapel Hill to implement honors classes at East in all four major subjects: English, social studies, math, and science,” East principal Eileen Tully said. “Before, honors classes were only offered in English and math.”
Despite the conflicting view of the new classes, much of the East staff was opposed to adding them.
“I was against the idea of having honors and non-honors chemistry
class because having honors and non-honors classes tends to make these classes segregated,” said chemistry teacher Kelly Allen.
The differences between the honors and non -honors classes are vast, with much more writing, higher expectations, and even an independent project due at the end of the year in Honors Chemistry, Allen said.
The same is true for the new history classes.
“In Honors US History, the material is not spoon-fed to the students, they have to do much more out-of-class learning than they do in non-honors,” said Brogden.
Despite the academic difficulty of the new honors courses, teachers have not seen a downturn in grades compared to the non-honors classes they are used to teaching. Teachers said they believe East student are well prepared for the workload of an honors class. Students feel the teachers were also well prepared to teach the higher level classes this year.
“Although there is a large workload involved in taking honors US History, my teacher, Ms. Galvin, does a good job in engaging the class, and making her students want to learn more on their own.” junior Andrew Moore said.

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