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Honors precalculus eliminated from DCPS curriculum

Honors+precalculus+eliminated+from+DCPS+curriculum
Will Carlyle-Dadson

This spring, DCPS announced their decision to eliminate the honors precalculus course. This has left individual high schools with the decision to offer either on-level or AP Precalculus (APPC) — a new course as of this past year. Jackson-Reed has decided to not offer on-level precalculus, leaving students to choose from either APPC or on-level Probability and Statistics (Prob Stat). 

DCPS made the decision to eliminate Honors Precalculus after surveying precalculus teachers in an attempt to strengthen student excellence in math. The results “indicated that students would benefit most from the ability to choose between either a rigorous precalculus program or an introductory precalculus experience where they could strengthen their foundational skills,” said DCPS Chief of Communications Kera Tyler. 

However, “if there is interest from Jackson-Reed students and families to take on-level precalculus, the course option will be made available to them,” said Tyler, meaning that JR would have to offer the course. Interest could be “conveyed via email to DCPS leadership, but students and families can also connect with their school counselors or administrators.”

JR Math Department Chair Grant Franke explained that although DCPS allows on-level precalculus to be offered and that the math department wanted the course to be offered, Principal Sah Brown ultimately decided against it. 

Brown explained that his decision to not offer on-level precalculus was based on the policy of Honors for All at JR. “[Honors for All] is the belief that all students can learn at high levels, along with the fact that we want more students to be prepared for those higher level advanced math courses,” he said. Due to this policy, Brown stated that “this decision [to not offer on-level precalculus] for me was do we then revert back? Or do we continue to raise the bar and challenge our students with more rigorous courses, opening up more access to advanced coursework?”

Brown said that at a meeting with the math department, there were some teachers who supported the move to APPC. Brown added that the meeting “allowed me to know what concerns exist so that we could plan for what support and resources would be needed for students to be successful.”

Some students and teachers believe APPC will be too rigorous to be the only precalculus option. “I’m very upset because I’m not ready for AP Precalculus,” said sophomore Estrella Sorokina-Mobbs. 

“I don’t think that the curriculum is appropriate for everybody because it is so fast-paced and so reliant on the fact that you learn so much so quickly,” honors and APPC teacher Elana Horowitz said. “In AP Precalculus, we have to keep going,” added APPC teacher Leland Casey. 

“I think that eventual exposure to an AP class is beneficial, but I think that the student will have to be well-prepared for it, in order for it to be truly beneficial,” Casey furthered.

With this change, Horowitz suspects many students may choose to take on-level probability and statistics due to their limited options. However, “not every student wants the drive or has the drive to take an AP math class, and there is nothing wrong with that,” said Horowitz. Sophomore Lila Ellenbogen agrees that she would rather take on-level Prob Stat. However, Horowitz believes that the transition from taking probability and statistics to a precalculus or calculus class required for college is “a very difficult jump.” 

On the other hand, students may feel pressured to take APPC instead of Prob Stat since it “exposes students to the skills they need to go into statistics or calculus,” according to Horowitz. Sorokina-Mobbs added that she feels obligated to take APPC even though she would rather take on-level Prob Stat. 

With the expected increase in students, APPC teachers may be forced to hold more office hours, and classes will become increasingly more difficult. Horowitz’s current classes did not finish the curriculum in time for the AP test, bolstering the idea that future APPC teachers will likely finish even less of the curriculum. With more students assumed to take APPC due to obligation rather than interest, Horowitz emphasized that students who are still concentrating on fundamental skills from Algebra I and II may not be adequately prepared for an AP math course, increasing pressure on the teachers.

However, the elimination of honors precalculus “will definitely give a lot of people [the opportunity] to get AP credits and have a very rigorous math [class],” Franke said. 

Looking forward, Brown explained that there won’t be a restructuring in the math department, but rather training for teachers to teach APPC due to the expected increased enrollment in the course.

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Edith Corrigan Conaty
Edith Corrigan Conaty, Managing Editor
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