Advanced Placement Chemistry in DHS future
By Robin Scott
At the regular meeting of the Dalhart Independent School District Board held Tuesday, July 21st DHS Chemistry teachers, Melissa Ritchey and Lori Beckner, gave a presentation regarding Advanced Placement (AP) Chemistry and their recent completion of training. The training gave each of them a better understand of the requirements necessary to get an AP Chemistry course on the schedule at DHS.
During their presentation, Ritchey provided the AP Chemistry teacher’s manual to the board for review. Both teachers explained that the prerequisites required before taking AP Chemistry would include more math rather than science. The AP course is very math intensive, according to Ritchey. The course itself is set at a higher level than the first two college chemistry courses. Students earning a 3, 4 or 5 will receive college hours, but 3’s may be dropped if desired as some universities will not accept courses with a passing score of 3.
Ritchey and Beckner estimated the time required by each student to prepare for an AP Chemistry class is five hours per week just to stay up with the course. They noted that a better way to get prepared to take the AP Chemistry course is to take a pre-AP course. That course would be considered a regular class and not an AP course. They stated that a general chemistry course would not prepare students for the AP Chemistry. Preparation time for the teacher is approximately two hours per day for a one-hour class period. Students who take and pass the course will definitely be more college ready, according to Ritchey and Beckner. Students will also need to be proficient in Algebra II prior to taking AP Chemistry.
The overall cost to get the AP Chemistry course up and running is $10,100. That amount includes purchasing the necessary equipment and chemicals required to teach the course. Further, the program is college audited to make sure it is on target and that the necessary equipment has been purchased. Without meeting those requirements, the students would not earn dual credit hours for taking the course.
The pre-AP also has a curriculum to follow. The course will allow students at the top of their class to advance into college with greater knowledge and preparedness. They will get exposure to topics that are not reached in general chemistry. Pre-AP is also at a higher level than general chemistry. Pre-AP may count as an honors type course in high school, but will not be transferable to college.
Beckner noted that the chemistry teacher would need an aid to help set up and take down labs. She attributed the need not only to the new 45-minute class schedule but also the time required already to change from teaching one type of course to another.
School districts that already have the AP Chemistry course available are experiencing a 95 percent pass rate for students achieving a 4 or 5 final score. The college credit earned is approximately 8 to 9 hours, depending upon the college or university.
Whether or not an AP Chemistry course is offered this coming school year is yet to be determined, according to Principal David Steele. He stated that he needs to meet with the students that may qualify. A major impediment for this year is that the supplies and equipment must get purchased. There may not be enough time to order and receive all that is needed. The textbooks are also different from those used in general chemistry and must be ordered. Beckner stated, “The students who may qualify to take an AP Chemistry course this year would probably have to double the anticipated study time just to keep up.”
Ritchey and Beckner felt that the training they completed was well worth their effort, and they are both now AP certified. The district will need to consider implementing the pre-AP course first before jumping into an AP course. Steele did note that AP Biology is on the Fall 2009 Schedule and the teacher taking over that responsibility has completed the AP training for Biology. He stated, “It would realistically take three years for DHS to be in a position to have the AP Chemistry course up and running.” He commented, “We are going to offer AP Biology this year and the teacher has gotten the training. We will have to meet with the students and their parents taking the AP Biology course to make sure they understand what they are about to jump into.”
Overall, the board members, Principal and teachers are excited about the future of AP courses at DHS. They plan to take any necessary steps to get those courses into the curriculum and in getting students ready to take AP courses.