By Jenny Jiao, ’16
For years, a single course has dominated conversation in the hallways of UAHS. Whispers of horror from freshmen, wails of agony from sophomores, and tales of survival from upperclassmen have all drifted from the infamous AP U.S. History.
However, the class that’s the source of so much discussion, complaints and fifteen-page study guides will not be offered in the next two years. Due to restructuring of graduation requirements by state law, UAHS has officially changed its social studies curriculum pathway.
Small changes in the pathway for the ‘15-16, ‘16-17, ‘17-18 school years are transitioning the school into its new pathway: American History for freshman, Government for sophomores, Electives for juniors and finally, Global History for seniors.
Social Studies Dept. Chair Robert Soccorsi explains the motive behind the change.
“The state now mandates that students take an end of course exam in American Government,” Soccorsi said. “The administration, therefore, was not comfortable offering Government as a senior course in case there were students who needed a certain score on that particular test in order to graduate. Moving Government allows students more opportunities to take the American Government test in order to reach the necessary point total.”
The point requirement is a new component to statewide graduation requirements. Of seven tests scored on a five-point scale (five being the highest), students must receive at least 18 points to graduate, six of those in science and social studies tests (Biology, American History and American Government).
Principal Andrew Theado elaborates that though most students do not need the extra opportunities, it’s still extremely important to the administration to offer them.
“Historically, we have done well on [state-mandated] types of tests but if one student didn’t graduate because of this, that would be a big problem,” Theado said.
As for APUSH, the administration is temporarily taking it off the list of class offerings because American History will become a freshman-, not a sophomore-level course.
“We don’t recommend that freshmen take AP classes so we’re not offering [APUSH],” Theado said. “The Social Studies Dept. is interested in offering it as an elective later on though.”
The loss of APUSH may be a welcome change for some, but many alums of the class, such as senior Daniel Wang, viewed it as the first step in the world of Advanced Placement classes.
“APUSH was the first AP class I ever took (my sophomore year) and, while difficult in the moment, was a rite of passage that I am thankful for after the fact,” Wang said. “As cliche as it may come across, the struggle that is APUSH taught me how to take notes, do homework, and study more efficiently. I have retained and still pull a surprising amount of information from my time in that class. I’m not sure if any other course could take on this ‘duty’ as well as APUSH really did.”
However, the administration has made it clear that this loss is not necessarily permanent. There are continued meetings with the department chairs and staff on the value of the APUSH class and its vibrancy in the school’s curriculum as it continues to transition.
In addition to APUSH, other social studies classes may be affected by this change.
AP Economics has been an enormously popular class that has filled almost five class sections each year. For the ‘16-17 school year however, sophomores are set to take an elective year instead of the usual juniors.
AP Economics teacher Scott Shinaberry expresses concern over the enrollment numbers.
“If you look at the way the pathway plays out, I am a little concerned AP Economics won’t get offered for a few years and students might miss out on taking it,” Shinaberry said. “I am hoping that some of the sophomores who would’ve taken APUSH might be interested in taking AP Economics. I think they’re pretty similar and kids that did well in APUSH traditionally do well in AP Economics as well.”
Theado feels a similar concern, but believes numbers will shift to other electives instead.
“We may see [AP Economics] numbers dip for a year but I think that they’ll come back,” Theado said. “I think some numbers in other classes will go up such as Beyond Tolerance or Current Political Problems.”
Preliminary enrollment numbers for the ‘16-’17 school year show shifts in the numbers between these electives, but administrators and teachers are continuing to tweak and adjust these before the next school year begins.
With the changes in the curriculum pathway and fluctuations in enrollment numbers, it remains unclear how drastically this shift will affect the students of UAHS.