Port City Notebook

News, views and random observations around Alexandria

Even More Random Things to Know about the Program of Studies

Starting this month, middle- and high-school students will be making their course selections for the coming school year. The 2015-2016 Program of Studies is a good place to begin. A year ago, Port City Notebook covered topics concerning course selection for rising ninth-grade students and outlined some differences between Dual Enrollment (DE) and Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Much of that advice is still relevant. What follows is some new and updated information:

  • The state of Virginia recently mandated that all students take an Economics and Personal Finance course (p. 59 in the Program of Studies), as well as one online course during their high-school career. T.C. has structured the classroom-based Economics and Personal Finance course to include an online component so that the one course will fulfill both requirements. (There is also an online-only version that fulfills both requirements.)TCW_logo_small
  • Parents of rising ninth-graders: Word on the street is that high-achieving eighth-graders aren’t seriously considering the STEM academy classes because the classes are perceived to be designed for students who struggle in the traditional classes. “That couldn’t be further from our experience with STEM and the kids who are in it this year,” says the mom of a freshman who is currently enrolled in the STEM academy and will continue with it next year. STEM courses (with the exception of engineering) are all Honors courses, and many of the current freshman STEM students are enrolled in Algebra II. In order to make a well-informed decision, your best bet is to talk with current STEM students and their parents. (For the inaugural cohort of STEM academy students, now rising juniors, a STEM Explorations III class has been added.)
  • Parents of rising 11th-graders: Just a heads up. Because current sophomores started a world language in sixth grade, they are on track to take an AP-level world language class as juniors. Some of these students are also taking Pre-Calculus, and AP or DE Calculus comes next. Even though the Honors Review Committee recommended the addition of Honors Level U.S. History for 11thgraders and Honors Government and English for 12th graders, those courses were not included for the coming school year. Once you add science to the mix (and most AP science classes are two periods), it’s easy to see how many students can end up taking an unhealthy load of AP classes.
  • Parents of rising 12th-graders: There is no DE or honors alternative to AP Virginia and U.S. Government. To avoid AP overload, students who enjoy public speaking, debate and group work may want to consider taking “Virginia and U.S. Government—We the People” (p. 81). Also, because of low enrollment, DE Calculus with Analytic Geometry will not be offered even though it is listed in the program of studies.
  • There are a number of new online courses, including two courses in World History and Geography; AP Human Geography; Art History; AP Calculus; and Probability and Statistics (p. 88). Even more online courses were dropped for the coming year because of changes in state regulations. If you have questions about online courses, contact the new Coordinator of Online Learning, Izora Everson, at everson@acps.k12.va.us.

Parents of rising 10th-grade band students who, due to the marching band requirement, cannot continue with the school band program for scheduling reasons or personal preference: There are myriad ensembles across northern Virginia that can provide your wind, string or percussion student with a rich and rewarding musical experience for the remainder of his or her high school years, and several T.C. students participate in the first two listed below. Some of these groups will be holding auditions between now and the end of the school year, and most have entry-level concert orchestras for middle-school musicians. Scholarships are often available for those organizations that charge tuition.

Washington Metropolitan Youth Orchestra
Weekly rehearsals on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. at Holmes Middle School in Annandale. Auditions on Saturday, May 16, and Monday, May 18, for the 2015-2016 season. More information here.

NOVA Alexandria Band
Weekly rehearsals on Thursday evenings from 7:30 to 9:45 p.m. at John Adams Elementary School in Alexandria. No audition required, and high school students are not required to enroll in the NOVA Community College course in order to participate. Contact the director here.

American Youth Philharmonic Orchestra
The area’s most highly-selective and prestigious youth orchestra. Weekly rehearsals on Monday evenings from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. at Marshall High School in Falls Church. Two rounds of auditions in April and June.

The Capital Symphonic Youth Orchestra
Weekly rehearsals on Monday evenings from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. at Lanier Middle School in Fairfax. Final round of auditions is on June 6. Audition application and excerpts here.

McLean Youth Orchestra
Weekly rehearsals on Sunday afternoons from 1:30 to 4:00 p.m. Auditions held between June and September, and rolling auditions are held throughout the year.


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