Students Seeking More Rigor Choose Self-Select

By Annie Yang 
Is everyone at South getting the most out of their time in school? Everyone goes to school for the same amount of time, but not everyone receives the same level of education. There is a huge disparity between an AP course and a regular course that comes from a multitude of factors like effort and aptitude. Nevertheless, even if some high school students are understandably not yet ready for college courses, are they getting a sufficiently rigorous and stimulating experience from classes restricted by the Regents curriculum?
Each student is unique, and for some, intense scholarly courses are simply not their passion. For others, the rigor of an AP course and the threat of a major test may be overwhelming. However, these students should still be educated to South’s high academic standard. The outstanding faculty and excellent student body are capable of joining forces so that a regular class can be an intellectually rewarding and enlightening experience even if it doesn’t have the AP or honors label.
A possible option that could maximize student potential is a self-select program that offers a higher level of education in a more relaxed and comfortable environment.
In eighth grade at South Middle, a self-select program is offered to students who want to get more out of their English and social studies classes. Students recieve extra stimulus and supplements that augment their usual class instruction. They meet once a month at lunchtime seminars that do not interfere with regular class time. During these seminars, students are encouraged to examine and discuss pieces of literature; they are also given additional assignments to challenge themselves. They are tasked with reading and analyzing at a higher level and, in class, are given more difficult questions on examinations to challenge them further.
This approach can be easily applied to other subjects. Certain topics not discussed in a regular class because “they’re not on the Regents” are covered in an AP or honors class. A self-select program could delve into the depths not broached in regular classes. For example, students interested in the underlying concept of a formula could gain a deeper understanding of what they’re actually doing when they plug in numbers during math class. Just learning what happens in photosynthesis may not satisfy those who want to understand why the process occurs as it does.
Furthermore, the individuals voluntarily in self-select want to be there and are willing to work. Students who want to test the waters in an “honors-esque” experience use the program as a stepping stone between regular and honors classes in the middle school, which limits class division. This unique experience could be valuable for high school students who want to be in an advanced class but are mere points away from being placed in an honors or AP course. While this system would burden teachers with more work, students would clearly benefit from this option. Perhaps it’s time for the South Middle self-select program to graduate to South High.
South is an excellent school that already offers top-class instruction for both regular and AP or honors students. The faculty is dedicated to providing the best education for everyone, but the inherent discrepancies between a regular and advanced class prevent students from receiving the same level of education. Students who yearn for more should be given the opportunity to pursue their interests to the fullest.