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Why We DON’T Need Easier Classes

Photo from Wikimedia

Photo from Wikimedia

Astrid C. Herrera, Westside, 2015

I am a senior at Westside High School, and it has truly been an honor to be part of such a prestigious school. I have always believed that it is crucial for students, especially high school students, to be responsible, independent, and intelligent enough to make the right choices.

As a senior and intern through the Genesys Works Program, I have had the privilege of having only four classes this year. Last semester, I finished my economics class, which left a spot open for me to take another class of my choice. I became an office worker for my house secretary, and I get to experience first-hand what other classes are doing throughout the class period.

One day, I had to deliver a packet to a classroom I had never been in before. When I entered the room, I was paralyzed when I saw the zoo-like environment in that class. Some students were playing games on the new HISD laptops, and others were using their phones and listening to music. I did not see any type of paper on their desks or any sign that they had possibly finished an assignment and were now “relaxing.” I was shocked and extremely upset to have encountered such a scene.

I proceeded to find the teacher in the classroom. When I finally spotted her, I could not believe myself. She was watching YouTube music videos with other students and laughing, as if she too had gone mad and forgotten the entire purpose of going to school to teach. I left the classroom as soon as I could, and while going back to the secretary, I was trying to process what I had just witnessed.

I later found out that this was a freshman Prep class. (Editor’s note: Prep classes are classes a level below Pre-AP/ AP classes, sometimes called “regular” or “academic” at other schools.)  I have never been fond of Prep classes, not only because they have a bad reputation around the school, but also because I have seen how students are treated and what is expected of them and the teachers. In my entire high school career, I have only taken Pre-AP and AP classes, so it was quite shocking to see what I had seen in that classroom.

What is the real reason why some students join Prep classes? After asking some underclassmen, I found out that in most cases, they like the fact that these classes are extremely easy, often to the point that students don’t have to do their homework or classwork to pass the class. The expectations for these students are extremely low. This type of ‘separation’ between Prep, Pre-AP, and AP classes is actually causing barriers and absurd excuses. Students are literally given the option to come to school and do absolutely nothing. They are not being well-prepared for the ultimate goal that school has for students–to attend college and have a successful career. They are being taught at an extremely low level that clearly is not preparing them for college.

Taking Prep-level classes is also a way for students to make up excuses and never do their work. Some teens are finding it useful to say, “I don’t know how to do this, I’m just a prep kid.” These students are not looking forward to learning anymore- they just want to go to class and chill with their friends. Our future generation thinks that going to school and not doing any of the work will get them a high school diploma; they are not even considering attending college anymore.

Recently, in an HISD Student Congress Advocacy Committee meeting, I met a man that listened to my concern about this issue, and to worsen things, informed about a plan that is being considered. The district wants to implement a new “level” of classes– a level lower than prep/regular. I can’t even imagine the type of students that will emerge if this new plan is to come true. It upsets me to think of how low expectations some current adults have of students today. There just can’t be a lower level than prep; this would risk decreasing students’ perseverance, achievement, and critical thinking skills.

Students today are the future workers and rulers of tomorrow. We all need to be exposed to challenge, problems, and success. If the end goal of studying for 12 years is to be prepared to attend college and earn a degree to have a successful life, I believe that these levels of learning should be abolished once and for all.

I understand that not everyone is on the same level, but students will never know their highest potential unless they are exposed to higher expectations and responsibilities. We are the future of this nation. Once the current government officials, teachers, nurses, astronomers, physicians, and CEOs are gone, it is in our hands to take control and keep the world functioning. This is what current adults in control need to understand and implement in our education; the ultimate goal is success, and it’s in our hands to do everything possible to achieve it.

photo from dbsquaredinc.com

photo from dbsquaredinc.com

3 comments on “Why We DON’T Need Easier Classes

  1. Angel Chavez
    March 3, 2015

    I really like the way you acknowledge the fact that the school system needs an improvement. After all, it’s us who go through the system every day, and there should definitely be a way to make HISD understand that we need students to be smarter and well-prepared for the future, which is in fact, life after college.

  2. Anonymous Senior
    March 13, 2015

    I would have to disagree with you when it comes to prep classes being exclusively for students who come to school and make a decision not to try. I think for the most part you are being stereotypical of the type of kids you see in prep classes; when really, there are plenty of ordinary students who struggle in subjects to a point where they require a slower learning pace in order to absorb that information. I took prep physics this year primarily because it is not my strong suit and I could not have excelled in Pre-AP as I do now in my prep class. It is important for students to actually understand the material and not everyone learns in the same way. That’s just my two cents.

    • Astrid C. Herrera
      March 20, 2015

      I understand your point and where you’re coming from. I understand, too, that I should’ve specified “some” prep classes and not “all”. However, the fact that some students come to school without a pencil or paper to do work- and they get away with it-really concerns me; keeping in mind that most of theses students take prep classes. For one, these students have so much more potential, and I know it because I’ve seen it. There should be an equal effort coming from both the teacher and the students. Also, if expectations were higher, there would be higher standards and possibly students will know that they actually are capable of doing Pre-ap or even AP work. I know that not everyone learns the same way, but what if there was no Prep level in schools, then what would happen? Prep classes are not even recognized in school bios or principal messages. In fact it’s always: “An integral part of (name of school)’s rich academic reputation has been built on the strength of our Advanced Placement program which boasts 62 various PreAP and AP courses! Taking the most challenging courses available is the surest sign of college readiness, not to mention the possibilities of earning up to a semester of college credit for free.” Does that mean that students that are not involved in those advanced courses are not ready for college? YES. Or at least that’s what they’re trying to say. Which concerns me, because what would happen to those prep students then? Are they not even expected to graduate and be successful? There needs to be a higher expectation for these students, because I know that some of them are capable of doing much more than just sit and fall asleep in class. Higher expectations and higher effort can ultimately lead to college readiness and a better education.

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