Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if my student's Honors class is really an Honors level class; what do you mean by intentionally mislabeled?
Ask your principal or guidance counselor if there are any standard level classes in the identical subject in which your student is enrolled/enrolling? If no Standard level class exists, then it is likely there will be students with a very wide range of abilities grouped together in the so called "Honors" class. This is especially prevalent in a high school students' junior and senior years where BCPS core GT courses have been altogether eliminated, though it is now becoming more common in freshman and sophomore years in schools where AP classes are being aggresively pushed in the earlier grades . Our opinion is that the practice of merely labeling a class an Honors class, when no equivalent Standard class is available is blatantly and intentionally misleading to parents, students and the colleges and universities who are relying on BCPS student transcript information.
What are the unintended consequences of taking mostly AP classes; I thought taking a lot of AP classes improved my students' chances to get into a good college?
The answer to this question is "it depends". Administrators may tell you that taking a full AP schedule demonstrates your student has taken the most "rigorous" courses available. However, some AP courses are widely criticized for being "a mile wide and an inch deep"; and many rely on rote memorization, not critical thinking. In schools where Gifted and Talented classes, legitimate Honors classes, and legitimate Standard classes still exist, students are not as pressured to rush through content because of a fixed AP test date (in early May), or a syllabus dictated by the college board. Students are permitted to probe deeper, ask questions and make connections - sometimes less can be more! Additionally, students and parents must evaluate how much time a student can devote to a heavy AP load and still lead a balanced and healthy life. There are only 24 hours in a day.
Taking two or three AP classes in high school demonstrates college readiness and is a good thing if your student is ready. But colleges seek out students who balance their lives with extracurricular activities and outside interests beyond the classroom. Each student is unique, but some of the unintended consequences of enrolling students into primarily all AP courses is that it leaves little time for anything else. Often, kids become totally stressed out due to overload. Students who find themselves in this position may turn to inappropriate strategies to alleviate stress such as cheating, drugs, alcohol, and self abusive behaviors like "cutting" and anorexia or bulemia. Most often, a decent night's sleep is the first thing that gets sacrificed.
What are some of the often overlooked consequences of taking certain AP classes, as it relates to a students' ability to graduate on time and in their school building?
It depends on the school, but some high schools offer certain AP courses as a 2- credit course (instead of a typical one credit course). This can be an advantage because it does allow more time to cover content and explore subjects deeper. However a student who opts to take a 2- credit course may discover too late that they do not have the opportunity or time in their remaining high school years to complete all of their high school graduation credits. In such instances, some students find that the only way to graduate on time is to to take a summer school health class, or classes at a community college. Consult the BCPS Course Registration Guide for the Maryland High School graduation requirements and map out your Four Year High School Plan according to the courses offered at your school. Bear in mind that the identical AP course can be offered as a 2-credit course at one school but as a 1-credit course at a different high school. It is critical that you look before you leap! Plan ahead!
My student can't manage a full load of advanced courses, but the standard classes are not being offered or the counselor says there are not enough students to fill a class. How did this happen? What are the tactics that some administrators use to manipulate enrollment?
This is a common occurence and can be very frustrating to students and parents alike. Follow the BCPS recommended "Chain of Command" to solve problems but also find out why courses are not available. School officials like the prestige that comes with having a lot of students taking advanced placement classes because it boost their school's rank in the Newsweek "America's Best High Schools" annual contest. One tactic employed to get students taking more AP classes is to simply eliminate the option for Standard and/or GT classes on the Students Class Registration Form! Then, when the inevitable complaints arise, school officials will redistribute the registration forms granting students an opportunity to revise their course requests. This tactic places the onus on the students to revise their schedules after they have already been submitted. Many students feel embarrassed to request a change, or the student gets consumed with other projects, or more often just sheer inertia prevails. It is not until the following year that the student discovers they are in too deep, but by then it is usually too late to make a change. Some school officials programtheir course registration software to "automatically default" a students course choice to the next "higher" course, again placing the onus on the student to insist on making a change to a schedule already established. Keep a copy of your students Course Registration form and hold your principal accountable for any such shenanigans as described here. Take it up the Chain of Command!
What is the BCPS official Chain of Command to resolve problems in my school?
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s academic progress or success in school, you are encouraged to follow these steps:
1. Talk to your child’s teacher
2. Talk to the school counselor
3. Talk to the principal
What if I can't get resolve my problem at my school level?
If you are not satisfied with your principal's response, the next step is to contact Ms. Barbara Walker, the Assistant Superintendent of High Schools. Ask for an appointment to discuss your concerns. There is great strength in numbers, so if you can form a group of parents with similar concerns, take a small representative sample of your group with you. Be prepared. Ask questions. And don't be afraid to demand change. Always be respectful and professional, but remember - you are the taxpayer, and you have a stake in the school system. Contact Ms. Walker at email@example.com or call her office at 410-877- 8767.
Is there anyone else within the school system who might be able to help?
There are other ways within the school system to advocate for change and make administrators aware of problems. However, these officials, while sometimes knowledgeable, do not exert any direct authority over principals or Assistant Superintendents. Nevertheless, they can be a good source of information and offer potential advice on how to navigate the system.
For Curriculum and Instruction issues you should contact Dr. Roger Plunkett, Assistant Superintendant for Curriculum and Instruction, and ask for a meeting. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call his office at 410-887-2446. Organize your group of parents; insist on plainspeak - not bureaucratic doublespeak. Be prepared, respectful, but insistent. View the BCPS Curriculum and Instruction Organization Chart here.
I am a Baltimore County taxpayer and the schools are not meeting my needs. How do I advocate outside the BCPS system?
This website is not affiliated with BCPS or any of its advisory groups.