Decision to remove courses causes discontent on campus

Several parties respond to WFISD's course removals

Wichita Falls Independent School District (WFISD) is officially cutting a few Advanced Placement (AP) and Honors courses offered at Rider for the 2020-2021 school year. 

The decision to do away with AP European History, AP Seminar, AP Environmental Science, Honors Creative Writing, Honors Physics and Ceramics was made downtown after considering a variety of factors, but it has ruffled some feathers with current faculty and students. 

According to Ward Roberts, Director of Innovation and Advanced Academics for WFISD, the decision to remove these AP classes took place in October and was handled by campus principals and the WFISD curriculum office. The group took into consideration related course options, efficient teacher scheduling and equity across the high schools.

There’s not really a ‘formula’ for making these decisions. It’s more like a discussion, where all parties involved offer input,” Roberts said via email. “Although not every stakeholder agrees with every addition or cut, we do our best to reach consensus.”

Rider Principal Cody Blair was present at the downtown meeting this fall. He and the other campus principals helped salvage several courses from the proposed list of 13-14 classes to be cut, but there were many external factors that influenced their decisions. 

We (high school principals) didn’t want to see course offerings removed from our students. I did not want to see any of our courses cut. Ultimately, I don’t think the district did either. They had to make hard decisions about getting more efficient with our staff.”

— Cody Blair

“We (high school principals) didn’t want to see course offerings removed from our students. I did not want to see any of our courses cut,” he said. “Ultimately, I don’t think the district did either. They had to make hard decisions about getting more efficient with our staff.”

Christopher Hartman and Randy Baskin are two teachers affected by the changes. When asked for their thoughts on the topic, they wrote a response claiming dissatisfaction with the decision because students’ academic pursuits are more restricted. 

We are disappointed for the students of Rider High School and the WFISD that their academic interests are being limited. …Classes like AP Environmental Science, Honors Physics, Ceramics, and AP European History are popular and worthwhile classes that won’t be available to students in our district in the future,” they said.

As for Honors Physics, it’s a popular course that has previously been one of three choices for Rider’s students alongside AP Physics 1 and Integrated Physics and Chemistry to fulfill their physics credit. There are three driving forces behind its removal. Besides overlapping curriculum with AP Physics 1 and inconsistent course scheduling (students skipping Honors for AP), Roberts said that the revised GPA plan no longer requires a physics course for top graduates, eliminating the need for an AP alternative.

With AP European History being removed, Hartman and Baskin said that starting next year, WFISD students will not be offered history classes outside of Texas and U.S. History after seventh grade.

“Students that have a desire to pursue degrees in political science or history or simply want to be well informed and well rounded are at a competitive disadvantage, with their peers around the state and country in college,” they wrote. 

Dr. Blair said this concern was not addressed at the fall curriculum meeting. He pointed out World History (a 4.0 class) is a course offered at Rider but that “many kids don’t take it because they’re only required the three years of social studies now.”

Now that dual-credit is weighted equally with AP for GPA, many believe there is intensive marketing toward dual classes. Combined with the latest class removals, some AP-focused students are frustrated, including Rider senior Nathan Carlston, who is currently tied for valedictorian. 

“They’re really doing it just to dodge an international standard because if you remove accountability from education, then you don’t have to worry about the quality of the education,” Carlston said. “They claim that there is no interest, but the WFISD mission statement is to ‘create lifelong learners.’”

However, Roberts said that the district has no intention of cutting the AP program. WFISD will continue to house AP, International Baccalaureate (IB) and dual-credit courses to meet the needs of its students, though they will respond to course interest with appropriate class offerings each school year. 

“Each of these programs has its own unique strengths. My hope is that students recognize that these options can complement each other, rather than compete with each other,” Roberts said.

As for the years to come, the district intends to implement more blended learning opportunities across the high schools, along with an increase in dual-credit offerings at the CEC center rather than on individual campuses. These changes are meant to strengthen both the AP and dual-credit programs.

I still believe very strongly that the AP program is going to continue, and as long as I’m here, I’ll fight to keep both programs going because we have students that those programs meet the needs of,” Blair said. “I think that both programs are going to keep going.”

 

Hartman and Baskin’s statement 

The following is the full message authored by Christopher Hartman and Randy Baskin that was shared with The Rider Chronicle.

We are disappointed for the students of Rider High School and the WFISD that their academic interests are being limited by decisions made by the downtown admin. Classes like AP Environmental Science, Honors Physics, Ceramics, AP Seminar, and AP European History are popular and worthwhile classes that won’t be available to students in our district in the future. As far as AP classes in particular are concerned, if there has been a dip recently in AP enrollment, we believe the elevating of dual concurrent classes to gpa equity with AP classes and their perceived extra rigor required, along with making students pay for their AP exams the last couple of years, and the constant district encouragement/pressure on students to take dual concurrent and non dual concurrent classes at the CEC center as well as the on ramps classes on campus are the reasons, NOT a drop in real interest in AP. In social studies, with AP European History now gone in the future, high achieving students have no history classes (honors, dual concurrent, AP) available to them outside of Texas and US History from the 7th grade onward. We think it is educational malpractice not to require or at least offer history classes that expose students to cultures, histories, and points of view that are outside the US. Students that have a desire to pursue degrees in political science or history or simply want to be well informed and well rounded are at a competitive disadvantage, with their peers around the state and country in college, that do not at least have a base knowledge of the world and its history outside our borders.