Monthly Archives: February 2012
By FRANCESCA COCCHI
Responding to student presentations at a monthly meeting Thursday night, the Parent Student Faculty Association voted unanimously to grant $1,000 to the Student Television Network (STN) Club as well as to the Photo Club to assist payments for upcoming trips.
Seniors Joe Zirkel of Matawan and Brian Murphy of West Long Branch spoke for a group of STN students regarding the request, which had been originally presented at a previous meeting. According to Zirkel, 10 students will attend the trip, which is hosted in Dallas, Texas, and features competitions in broadcast journalism. After several calculations, Zirkel said the club determined the trip will cost around $12,300.
Zirkel said the district has agreed to fund $4,200, and the club has raised about $3,000 through fundraising. After hearing the presentation, the PSFA voted 25-0 in favor of the grant.
Photo Club president senior Caiti Borruso and adviser Maryanne Rodriguez presented a similar request later in the meeting. The club plans to take five board members to a conference in Washington D.C., which will feature staff photographers from Life and Time magazines as well as Nobel Prize and Infinity Award winners. Rodriguez said they will then relay the information to the rest of the 60 club members.
The PSFA agreed to grant the Photo Club, which is receiving no district funding for the trip, $1,000.
“We love to have you guys come and present,” said PSFA co-president Debbie Talamo after the presentations. “There are only two things I ask – that you have it prepped and tell me your coming.”
The large part of the meeting consisted of discussion about the new Peer Review Board, the first of its kind in the district, which started last Friday. According to Academic Integrity Committee chairperson Leah Morgan, the board consists of Student Government Association Adviser Sharyn O’Keefe and five student representatives, three of whom rotate from a pool of 25 students on a regular basis.
Morgan said the purpose of the board is to help reach one of CHS’s two Middle States goals: to lower the incidence of cheating by 11 percent through the course of seven years.
The board will review cheating cases at the discretion of Principal James Gleason, Morgan said. Progress is being checked through annual anonymous surveys of the student body.
Talamo said the other Monmouth County Vocational School District schools are using the Peer Review Board as a model and may introduce similar committees in the future.
By FRANCESCA COCCHI
WALL – After years of discussion, students here could have their first Advanced Placement course in the curriculum by next year, Principal James Gleason said.
But AP courses will bring their own challenges for students hoping to beef up their college apps with the classes, according to both high school and college officials.
Faculty members of the math department have expressed an interest in offering AP Calculus, Gleason said.
It’s one of 34 AP courses offered by the College Board, including Chinese Language and Culture, Studio Art, Psychology and English Literature. Students want the courses because a high score can earn them college credit at most four-year colleges, allowing them to skip certain introductory courses as college freshmen.
Even without AP courses, CHS students can currently earn college credit. The school already offers Seton Hall University credits through a duel enrollment program.
Seton Hall credits are offered to students taking Spanish V with Mrs. Sabina Campbell, Calculus with Mrs. Debbie Maher, or English IV with Ms. Jamie Vander Velde. Students must pass the courses and pay a nominal fee to acquire the Seton Hall credits.
AP and IB courses are offered in most surrounding school districts and in schools across the country. CHS is alone in the Monmouth County Vocational School District in offering no AP or IB courses.
“I feel that at Communications High School, we operate on a rigorous curriculum, and AP classes are the next step up,” said junior and Instructional Council student representative Jenny Coulter of Manasquan.
Among the district’s career academies, the Academy of Allied Health and Sciences (AAHS), Biotechnology High School (BTHS), High Technology High School (HTHS), and the Marine Academy of Science and Technology (MAST) all offer between one and 12 AP or IB courses. AAHS and HTHS also offer college credits through Georgian Court University.
Math teacher Justine Lane has been an outspoken proponent of introducing AP courses to CHS, particularly AP Calculus.
“I think adding them would be beneficial,” said Lane. “Our students are not having any trouble getting into wonderful schools. However, for kids trying to get into high end schools and Ivy Leagues, some are surprised to get turned down.”
Although she was accepted to an Ivy League school, CHS alum and current sophomore at Brown University Alli Schaaff said not having AP classes put her at a disadvantage in college and left her feeling unprepared for the workload.
“CHS babies students in the math and sciences,” Schaaff said, noting that the faculty is not at fault. “If we were offered AP classes when I was there, I absolutely would have taken as many as I could have.”
Schaaff said despite taking CHS’s strong elective courses, she felt she didn’t have the chance to learn all she could have in high school.
“It makes me upset sometimes,” she said. “I feel like CHS advertises a little falsely, calling itself an honors academy and telling students they will be challenged.”
According to Lane, some students and faculty members are “emphatically” for the addition of AP classes. She noted, however, that when the topic came up at a Parent-Student-Faculty Association meeting, parents were not pushing for the change.
“At this point I don’t know where it stands,” she said, noting that CHS is the only public high school in Monmouth County that does not offer any AP or IB courses.
Lane and Gleason both mentioned that the lack of AP classes is likely the reason that CHS has never appeared on Newsweek’s annual list of the top 500 high schools in America, which ranked HTHS 18th and BTHS 25th in 2011. The list scores each school based on graduation rate, college matriculation rate, amount of AP tests taken per graduate, average SAT/ACT scores, average AP/IB/ Advanced International Certificate of Education scores, and amount of AP courses offered.
Gleason cited several reasons for the current lack of AP courses.
“When CHS first opened in 2000, the planning committee wanted to design courses based on the theme of the high school,” he said.
According to Gleason, the addition of one AP course would mean one less elective for the student. This, he said, “goes against what we are about.”
Block scheduling also proved to be an issue during discussions of the change. Since the AP exams are in May, the current four by four block for such a course would not be effective. Gleason said students would likely take the course for three marking periods and finish the year with a marking period of their mentorship programs.
Gleason also said the addition would “impact a small part of the population.” He went on to say that if 20 seniors take AP calculus, 60 still academically talented students who choose not to take it will have the disadvantage of lacking the course on their transcript.
Gleason said considering the college success rate from the eight classes that have graduated from CHS without AP credits, he does not believe it has been a disadvantage.
Senior and Instructional Council member Brian Murphy of West Long Branch said CHS’s lack of AP classes causes colleges to underestimate the academic level of the school.
“A lot of the college admissions officers who are reading thousands of applications a week don’t really have time to investigate what’s going on at CHS,” said Murphy. “If they did, I’m sure they would find that our classes are at that level.”
Murphy also said that, while it is hard to say whether one thing will make a difference for him personally, top ranking colleges use the AP exams as a way to “validate the curriculum and look at things across the country.”
“It’s a glaring thing that seems to be missing,” he said.
A Rutgers University information assistant said Rutgers does not hold it against a student who does not take AP classes if they are not offered any. The advantage of taking AP’s, she said, comes when admitted students who received a 4 or higher on their AP exams are able to skip certain intro courses at the university.
Colin Riley of the office of media relations at Boston University also said one of the factors to consider when looking at an applicant is what the school offers.
“If your academic transcript shows that you’ve challenged yourself and you have had a rigorous academic program, including honors or AP courses depending on what are available in your school, then you look to us a stronger candidate,” said Riley.
Riley went on to say that at a university that receives nearly 44,000 applicants a year and admits around 3,900, “we look to see if a student has challenged themselves and reached a level of achievement.”
He added that a school lacking AP courses is “no surprise,” as the university has people review high schools in every area to develop a good sense of them. He also said BU looks at less standardized items first, such as essays and letters of recommendation.
If the discussion does progress into a feasible change, CHS will start with no more than one AP class next year, according to Gleason.
“We will never be able to offer the amount of AP courses a comprehensive high school offers,” said Gleason.
As for discussions regarding additional AP courses aside from calculus, such as art, English and sciences, Gleason said, “Everything is on the table.”