Port City Notebook

News, views and random observations around Alexandria

A Parent’s Guide to the 2016-2017 Program of Studies

With the second quarter ending, it will be time once again for middle- and high-school students to make their course selections for the coming school year, and there are some notable additions to the 2016-2017 Program of Studies that families should know about.

TCW_logo_smallIf you are new to the Port City Notebook, you might want to first read previous posts from 2014 and 2015, which contain general information about course requirements and selections that’s still current. One exception is that for 2016-2017 11th and 12th grade honors courses for English and Social Studies have now been restored so that students have a third option—in addition to Advanced Placement and general education courses—for those subject areas. The Honors level class for 12th grade Virginia and U.S. Government will be a slight variation on the existing “We the People” class, which would appeal to students who are interested in public speaking and debate.

The most interesting new set of electives for sophomores, juniors and seniors is the AP Capstone Program, which T.C. Williams has been selected to offer starting next fall. In an effort to compete with the IB (International Baccalaureate) diploma program, the College Board has created the AP Capstone diploma—a two-year sequence consisting of an AP Seminar class followed by an AP Research class. T.C. English teacher Sarah Kiyak has led this effort and will be teaching the Seminar class in 2016-2017 and then the Research class in 2017-2018.

AP Seminar teaches students how to gather and analyze information from a wide variety of sources, says Kiyak, “and in the second course, students write, in essence, a mini-dissertation that is published at the end of the school year.” Students who receive a score of 3 or higher in both the Seminar and Research classes as well as any four additional AP exams are awarded an AP Capstone Diploma. You can find the AP Capstone courses in the Program of Studies on page 82.

Another noteworthy course addition is the new AP Computer Sciences Principles course, which will serve as an introductory level course for the existing AP Computer Science class (page 75). Historically, enrollment nationwide of females and under-represented minorities (i.e. not white or Asian) in the AP Computer Science course has been very low; last year, among those taking the class, only 22% were female and only 13% were under-represented minorities, and T.C.’s percentages are probably similar. The College Board is attempting to remedy those dismal national averages by adding a more-inviting on-ramp version of the course, just as they did with in 2014 with AP Physics. Splitting that course into two levels resulted in a doubling of students taking AP Physics, including higher percentages of under-represented minorities and females.

Some other changes to the Program of Studies:

  • Juniors who are taking AP German or AP French this year can continue their world language studies with “Advanced Topics in German Language and Culture VI” (page 88) or “Advanced Topics in French Language and Culture VI” (page 87). Comparable courses for students taking Latin and Spanish will be offered in 2017-2018.
  • If there is sufficient demand, Latin will once again be offered at Francis Hammond Middle School as well as GW Middle School.
  • Three courses have been added to the Art Department offerings: AP Studio Art: Drawing, AP Studio Art: 3-D Design and 3D Exploration & Design (page 70).
  • A new half-credit course called “Student Help Desk Co-op” will give students an opportunity to use their computer trouble-shooting skills to help their fellow T.C. community members (page 60).
  • “Teachers for Tomorrow” is a new course that’s affiliated with a state program for students interested in the teaching profession and which includes an off-site supervised internship (page 61). This course was added at the request of students.
  • Firefighting, which is taught by Alexandria Fire Department firefighters along with ACPS staff, continues to be listed in the Program of Studies but will only be offered if the city provides funding (page 68).

Rising 9th through 12th grade students and parents can learn more about course offerings and talk with teachers at the Academic Advisement and Elective Fair on Tuesday, February 16, at 5:30 p.m. at the T.C. Williams King Street campus.

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Worth Reading

Click here for an update on the ACPS Redistricting Process.

Click here for some sage advice for second-semester seniors about finding a balance between college work, leisure and technology use.

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