Seneca Valley Explores New Course Options, Graduation Requirements

Officials also are considering upping how AP course are weighted.

Seneca Valley School Board members are considering a change in policy that could alter graduation requirements for seniors, give middle and high school students new class options and even change the way Advanced Placement courses are weighted—all by next year.

At Monday’s meeting, officials reviewed plans for the district’s 2013-14 program of studies.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Matthew McKinley said this is “Phase II” of the district’s mission to prepare students for life in the 21st entury. For “Phase I,” which was implemented for this school year,

One of the biggest proposed changes to the program of studies—which would not take effect until next school year—is doing away with speech class as a requirement to graduate.

Speech would instead by embedded into other courses, McKinley said.

“The reason for that is because students are doing so much public speaking in the other courses that we don’t need to have a stand alone half credit requirement for that,” he said. “They’re doing it in English, they’re doing it in social studies, they’re doing it health, they’re doing it in so many different classes.”

Removing speech as a requirement for graduation also opens up opportunities for students to add a different course worth a half credit to their schedule, McKinley said.

Also no longer a graduation requirement under the proposed program is physics. Instead, students will be allowed to take any STEM-related courses (sciences, technology, engineering or math) to meet the requirements.

“If they choose to take physics, they still can and that will meet that requirement,” McKinley said.

Changes to Advanced Placement Courses

Another proposed change in policy would alter the way Advanced Placement courses are weighted. A weighted grade point average is based on the idea that some high school classes that are harder than others and should carry more “weight.”

Currently Seneca Valley’s AP and College in High School courses are weighted at 0.25 on the 4-point grade scale. Honors courses are weighted at 0.125.

Under the proposal, the AP courses would jump to being weighted at 0.35.

Superintendent Dr. Tracy Vitale noted while the CHS and Honors classes are rigorous, the AP courses—part of a nationally driven curriculum—are even tougher.  

After speaking with teachers, students and parents, McKinley said the district believes upping the weight of AP courses will attract more students.

“We think weight is a motivator for a lot of students and that this might appropriately raise the numbers that go into those Advanced Placement courses,” he said.

New Courses and Cyber Offerings

There also would be more new courses and cyber classes available next year. They are:

New Courses

  • Advanced Placement World History (grade 10 only)
  • Advance Placement Studio Art: 2-D/Drawing (grades 11 and 12)
  • Honors Engineering Experimentation (grades 11 and 12)

New Cyber Offerings

  • AP U.S History
  • AP Calculus AB
  • AP Biology
  • AP Spanish
  • Intro to Health Sciences 1 & 2
  • Intro to Information Technology A & B
  • Into to Entrepreneurship 1 & 2
  • French 1-3, German 1-2

McKinley said detailed descriptions of the new courses are available on the school district’s website. The board is expected to vote at its next meeting at 8 p.m. Jan. 21 at the intermediate high school on whether to approve the changes in policy.

If given the OK, district spokeswoman Linda Andreassi said the new courses would be available as options later this month when students begin scheduling classes they want to take in the next school year.

What do you think of the new course offerings? Do you think weighting the AP classes above the other courses will attract more students? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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