Latinx students make up 24% of the student body at SPHS, yet only 17% of Students taking AP classes. We want to help change that.

To read this article from Propublica click here. Vecinos de South Pasadena wants to help Latinx students navigate their way to successful AP class enrollment.  We’ve put together this guide so that Latinx students and parents can fully understand all the options that are available to them and to help students enroll in their first AP class in tenth grade, if they so wish.  

We hope once students undergo the process of enrolling in their first AP class and experience success in it, they’ll be encouraged to take more AP classes in their junior and senior years.  

A Word About AP Classes in General

  • If you view SPHS’s AP Night Presentation (link is at the very bottom on the right) you might notice a majority of the presentation is wisely spent warning students not to take too many AP classes.  Some of the students’ regrets came from those who took five AP classes as seniors and had little time for anything else.  Other regrets were from those who took a lot of AP classes in subjects they had no interest in, just to “squeeze in a few more APs”.  The one positive student is the one who took APs in subjects he was interested in. We urge students to challenge themselves, but strike for a good balance between schoolwork, down time and extra curricular activities (e.g., clubs, sports, part-time jobs, etc.).  More importantly, however, students will find AP classes more rewarding if they take them in subjects they’ve enjoyed in the past, or have a genuine interest in. This not only challenges the student intellectually, but might help the student discover if this subject is a passing fancy or something they want to continue pursuing.
  • For an estimate of amount of homework hours per class view SPHS table here.  You can find a weekly time management planner here.
  • College credit is not guaranteed.  Key factors are: what score the student received on the final exam and the individual policy of the college.  For more on this we suggest reading this article by the Progressive Policy Institute.
  • Because AP courses are more standard across the country, this gives college admissions counselors a better point of reference for the rigor of your class, even if you do not take the AP test or don’t score 3 or above.
  • How many AP classes?  This is going to vary by student and by what college that student is wishing to attend .  As we’ve read, some students take five APs in their senior year alone and regret it.  At SPHS three AP classes per year is considered most challenging.  The Los Angeles Times wrote in “A parent’s guide to AP classes: “For highly selective schools such as Ivy League schools, Stanford, and public universities like UCLA and UC Berkeley, it’s common for accepted applicants to take about eight AP classes throughout high school, though that number can range from five to 13.  There are many colleges, though, that don’t ask for that many AP classes and offer a very good education, even though they’re not in U.S. News & World Report’s top 30 schools. Students can get into a four-year school with just one AP, and in some cases, with none. Students with a high school degree can also attend community college without any AP classes, and then transfer to a four-year school.”
  • Since AP Courses can be dependent on current staffing, it’d be wise to check the current AP courses being offered by SPHS.  You can find the current information hereNOTE:  As of 10/18/21 this link points to a broken, removed, or unavailable page at SPHS, we have notified them of this and hope it will corrected soon.

A Guide for SPHS 10th graders wishing to take AP Comp Sci and/or AP Chem

SPHS sophomore’s default classes are usually:  English, Math, World History, PE, Science, LOTE (Language other than English) and Study Hall.  Students are allowed to take AP classes starting in tenth grade, but the options are limited:  AP Computer Science and AP Chemistry.  

AP CHEM:  

  • Since a science slot is already available in your schedule, in that regard your path is easier and is outlined below (steps 1-4). 
  • However, it’s highly recommended that you be strong in math and have completed Math II+, in this regard the path is more narrow as outlined below.
    • To have completed Math II+ by the start of 10th grade, you would have had to successfully completed Math 1+ in 8th grade and Math II+ in 9th.  While this is doable, it is definitely a highly rigorous path.
  • Completion of Chem Honors is preferred.
    • Ninth graders are typically programmed to take Biology for their science slot.  If you think you might be interested in this path, begin thinking and planning early.  You would have to request ninth grade Honors Chem, while you’re still in middle school, this is a good option if you are ready for the challenge. 
    • You could take Chem Honors over the summer through SPEF between ninth and tenth grade at the current cost of $540.  If finances are an issue, and you wish to take Chem Honors in the summer between 9th and 10th grade, simply follow the steps outlined below for taking World History for free in the summer, UC Approved charter school that offers Chem Honors, or ask SPEF for a grant (see “The easy path” below for more information on that).

AP COMP SCI:  Because college-bound SPHS tenth graders don’t have an elective spot on their schedule, you’ll need to do some work on your end to open one up.  You do have some options:  One is easy, but pricey, the other is free, but requires a bit of work on your end. They both require summer school between ninth and tenth grade.

The easy path:  Take World History through SPEF summer school.  Because SPEF has an agreement and uses pre-approved SPHS curriculum, you do not need prior approval from your counselor and the Assistant Principal of Curriculum to take this course for SPHS credit.  The drawback is the cost: $540.  

Students who receive free or reduced lunch may apply for a grant ranging from 25 to 50% of tuition, but applying doesn’t guarantee an award since SPEF funds are limited.  To apply complete this paperwork and wait for a reply.  Another alternative: if you register and make a deposit with SPEF early in the year (Feb or March) you are allowed to do a payment plan with subsequent payments in April, May and June.  The six-week course typically begins mid-June.  

The free path:  The individual pieces of information provided here can all be found on the SPHS website, but it’s not easily stitched together.  We’ve put together this guide so that students and parents can fully understand all their options.  

What you should know:

  • The objective is to open up a spot in your tenth grade schedule.  You can do that by completing one of the other course requirements for 10th grade the summer between 9th and 10th.  The example we use below in steps 5 – 10 is World History because that is comparable to taking World History through SPEF.  However, if you don’t limit yourself to SPEF, but use another school, you can consider taking other classes like PE, English or LOTE.
  • SPHS allows students to transfer in 15 units/credits from any WASC accredited school.  See SPHS Curriculum Course Catalog 2021-2022, page 7 “NON-SPHS COURSES’.’   If the course is also fulfilling an A-G college requirement the school should also be UC Certified 
  • SPHS lists some schools where you can take classes, but your options are not limited to those schools.  Any school that is WASC accredited and allows “guest students” would be a good option, but we’ve identified two for you below.
  • Two free schools include: Method and Opportunities for Learning (OFL). These are charter schools and so they are not actually free — just like SPHS, they are paid for and regulated by the state of California, but free to the student.  It is important to understand that you will still be a public school student and as such you cannot be enrolled in TWO public schools at the same time, so this has to be done over the summer and not concurrent with attending SPHS. 
  • So how does this work?  These schools are technically year-round-schools and you are technically “leaving” SPHS for the summer and enrolling at their school then withdrawing from their school to re-enroll at SPHS in the fall.  All this is technical, because, in actual fact, some of the schools call summer students “guests” for their July term and although it’s technically required, they don’t actually require you to withdraw at all.
  • OFL and Method are both online schools and as such students who are good at managing their time are well suited for this option.  They do provide tools to help the student plan out and manage their time, but this is definitely different than going to in-person summer school.

The Process and the Paperwork

  1. First thing you need to do is attend the AP Exploration Meeting.  Per the SPHS AP webpage “Students considering taking AP/Honors level classes must attend AP/Honors virtual meetings in order to understand the full scope and expectations of each course. Attending a meeting does not commit a student to enroll in an AP/Honors class and, conversely, AP/Honors classes can only be selected after attending the meetings and completing an AP/Honors contract. If you have a “C” grade in your current class, you must submit a Skills Mastery form that has been signed by a teacher and your parent/guardian. Email request for Skills Mastery form to sphstesting@spusd.net
  2. Complete a Skills Mastery form, if needed (see above)
  3. If you miss the AP meeting of the class you’re interested in, you can “attend” (watch) a previously recorded one.  Per the website “visit https://edpuzzle.com/join/nozpotl to watch a recording of the meeting for the AP/Honors class(es) you are interested in signing up for next school year.  You must watch the video in its entirety to record your visit and allow your counselor to see that you viewed the information.”
  4. Complete the Advanced Placement (AP)/Honors Course Contract and submit it to your counselor.
  5. Apply to become a student for July Intersession at the Opportunities for Learning (OLF) website.  There’s a lot of paperwork and videos to watch there, their enrollment opens in March.  If you choose Method, their enrollment for high school doesn’t begin until May 1st.   The application forms are LONG, set aside a good 30 minutes or so.  OFL World History is all on-line, you can view their course syllabus here
  6. Complete a Request Form for Non-SPHS Course and email it to your counselor and  Assistant Principal of Curriculum, Janet Wichman.
  7. Wait for your Request Form for Non-SPHS Course to be signed by your counselor.
  8. Email Janet Wichman and confirm that she has approved your form.
  9. At this point your counselor will probably (tentatively) still schedule you for World History in the fall and also AP Comp Sci.  Once she receives a copy of your transcript from your summer school reflecting your successful completion of the summer school class she will remove World History and add your Study Hall back into your schedule.
  10. Once you complete your summer school class, take measures to ensure your transcript is sent to your counselor before classes begin in the fall.

Additional FYI:  Instead of taking World History over the summer you may wish to take P.E. to create the same effect of opening up a slot, however, please note that Opportunities for Learning does NOT offer PE for a full 10 units in the summer, if you prefer to take PE over the summer, you will need to do it with Method or some other school that allows a full 10 units over the summer.  This may be preferable if you’d rather take World History in the fall at SPHS.

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