Students too often pulled from class

March 06, 2012

Editor:

It is indeed welcome news that the Harford County Public Schools, on the initiative of Superintendent Dr. Robert Tomback plans to fortify the offerings of advanced placement courses to students (As noted in The Aegis editorial, "Cause for concern" published Feb.17) but one has to wonder if we have seen this pattern before. In Harford County Public Schools, a positive public relations pitch drives almost everything and reports of increased AP enrollment is seen as a positive public relations tool for the local school system. Students as young as ninth and 10th grade are being enrolled into new AP courses in preparation for the upcoming academic year. However, just as always when HCPS fortifies an existing program, they fail to make room for it by removing something else to allocate room for it. As it stands right now, the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference has de facto control over academic scheduling. Athletic directors and other adults of the "sports are first" mentality commonly pull students and teachers who are coaches out of classes early for transportation to athletic contests on a daily basis, especially in the fall and spring. Most egregious are those times when events are rescheduled because of inclement weather and often cause the same students and teachers to be pulled from instruction on several consecutive days for transportation to rescheduled events.

My observations suggest that this is a primary reason why our AP students are performing below their peers in other counties in regards to the number of qualifying scores on the AP tests – they simply aren't in class long enough to receive the required instruction (or their teacher has been frequently pulled out since he/she is a coach). The athletic program is not the only culprit as HCPS continues to pull high school students out of instruction for an entire week to staff the Harford Glen Elementary program. The bands, choruses and orchestras schedule events for Saturdays, and then pull the students out of classes all day on Fridays to practice for those events. Some of our high schools have "Club" days where instructional time is interrupted for the purposes of student socialization. All of these events highly impact students who are enrolled in AP classes. In short, extracurricular activities are indeed good for students, but they work to the detriment of increasing academic performance when they are scheduled and take preference over regular instructional time.

I would recommend that the superintendent and the Board of Education begin immediately to schedule all transportation to extracurricular events to occur only after instructional time has ended. Otherwise, a fortified AP program is only fodder for the press and parents as another public relations gimmick and does not really meet the needs of those AP students and their parents who really desire a maximum impact program of Advanced Placement courses.

Stu Chapman

Havre de Grace

The writer is a teacher at Aberdeen High School and has been teaching in Harford County Public Schools for 39 years.

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