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Learn the right questions to ask! 
Map out a High School Plan that meets your unique needs. 

Make informed decisions about your high school career - ask the right questions before you leap.

Standard, Honors, GT and AP Course levels, High School Transcripts, and Drop/Add

  • Ask your principal, very specifically, about the range of classes being offered at your school. What are the choices available to your students now and for the remainder of their high school years?  Which core courses ( math, science, english and social studies), and levels (Standard, Honors, Gifted and Talented and Advanced Placement) are being offered in each subject? Ask for the information in writing so you can study it fully, and map your high school path.

  • What does a Standard Class look like to the student sitting in the classroom, how is it weighted on a transcript? How does it differ from an Honors, GT or AP course? Is a Standard level course a "low level" course ( it should not be!)?  Are Standard classes offered in all core subjects in all grades? If the answer to this question is no, or if you are told that "Honors" is the lowest level class offered, then the "Honors" classes are very likely not legitimate Honors classes. In this instance the "Honors" level class includes a very wide range of students - with a combination of students who may need Standard, Honors and GT levels of instruction.

  • What does an Honors course look like to the student sitting in the classroom, how is it weighted on a transcript? How does an Honors class differ from a Standard, GT or AP class? Are Standard classes offered in all core subjects in all grades? If the answer to this question is no, then the "Honors" classes at your school are very likely not legitimate Honors classes. In this instance the "Honors" class will include a very wide range of students -and the teacher may be trying to teach the course at a Standard, Honors and, even, GT level of instruction. Moreover, since there are no longer any GT options in 11th and 12 grade, then the GT students who don't want to take yet another AP class will also be placed in the "Honors" class. How will colleges view a students weighted "honors" transcript if there are no "standard" classes offered at their school? Read the BCPS Explanation of Grading System for Grades 9 through 12.  If "Honors" classes are the "lowest" classes offered at a school - then that fact should be disclosed in the HighSchool Profile so that college and university admissions directors may properly evaluate a students  "weighted grade point average".

  • What does a GT class look like to the student sitting in the classroom? How is it weighted on a transcript? How does a GT class differ from an AP class? Is an AP class weighted higher than a GT class or the same (the answer is NO -GT and AP are weighted the same).  Is an AP class more "rigorous" than a GT class, or just different? How so? It is important to understand the difference. Visit our Resources page to learn more about this topic.

  • What is your school's policy on changing a schedule or dropping an AP class once the school year had begun? Is there a deadline for dropping an AP class without being penalized? Does your school offer guidance regarding how many AP courses a student should take in one year?  Some students take too many AP classes at once and find out - too late -  that they can't get out. Appropriate and honest counseling in advance of signing up for a lot of AP classes at once is critical!  Read more.

Advanced Placement Courses and the College Board

     Here are the critical questions to ask school officials about the Advanced Placement courses offered at your school. These questions will help you and your student make informed decisions about the mix of courses appropriate for your student and the honest value of each course. Be forewarned, most schools Do Not Allow  students to withdraw from Advanced Placement courses, especially after the first two weeks of the semester - and sometimes not even then.  If your student takes too many AP classes at once and can't keep up, he/she will be stuck and it can ruin their cumulative high school Grade Point Average (GPA). Know what you are signing up for, how much work is required - inside and outside of the classroom, and if it is an engaging course. Don't make assumptions- ask other students and parents about their experience.                       

  • Ask your principal for your school's Advanced Placement Grade Report. Each summer, this report is provided by the College Board to every high school, and it reveals how many students in each course received fives, fours, threes, twos and ones, the rough equivalent of A's, B's, C's , D's and F's. Your principal may protect the privacy of each student by simply sharing only the summary page at the end of the report. The summary page reports results for each subject. Click here to read the article "Your School's AP Secrets". Also ask how many students opted not to take the test; this data will not be included in the Summary Page report, and must be asked for separately. Some high schools make this information available in their school profile. See a sample here.

  • How does the AP National Test Schedule impact the pacing and depth of material explored in an AP class? Can students be adequately prepared in time for an early May test date, when the the BCPS academic year runs through mid June? Click here to see the College Board AP test dates in early May.  

  • What is the school's official policy on taking the AP exam; are students allowed to opt out?  If a student chooses not to take the AP course exam, how will that impact their final grade for the course? 

  • Ask other parents and students what their students did in class, after the early May AP test date? You may be surprised at some of the answers. 

  • Visit some of the links on our Resources page to explore how colleges view AP credit, how many credits they really accept, and for which subjects? Do AP credits always transfer as college credit? Do they really allow your student to graduate early?  Think about it: is this what you and your student want? Do colleges accept AP credit as a way of allowing a freshman student to opt out of a first year course? Do colleges limit the number of AP credits they will accept and what is the minimum exam score they will accept?

  • Read links on our Resources page to articles about AP programs, and the proliferation of SAT optional colleges and universities.

  • Based on your principal's answers, and your research, sit with your student and the school guidance counselor to map out a Projected Four-Year High School Plan. This is a critically important step and each high school has its own approach to counseling.  

Learn what makes a high school a top tier school in the Newsweek Rankings

   In the summer of 2011, the Washington Post sold its subsidiary, Newsweek,to a private owner. Immediately following the sale, Newsweek merged with The Daily Beast, an online news website. The methodology used to evaluate schools for Newsweek'sAmerica's Best High Schools annual edition was revamped, and the list was modified to reflect the top 500 high schools (according to the new methodology). You can read about the new methodology here.

   Prior to June 2011, a more rudimentary methodology was used to determine Newsweek's, America's Best High Schools.  Click here for an explanation of the methodology behind the prior years numbers. See for yourself the factors that were considered in evaluating the Challenge Index (CI), and the Equity and Excellence (E&E) Index for years prior to 2011. 

   Maryland is ranked as having the "Best Schools In the Nation": find out what that really means. You might be surprised!

Look before you leap; plan ahead and map it out!

This website is not affiliated with BCPS or any of its advisory groups.
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