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An Open Letter Regarding South Lakes High School

An open letter advocating for a return to AP.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I will start with full disclosure. I am a senior at South Lakes High School. I am in the IB program; I've been in it since the ninth grade. I have thrown down the proverbial gauntlet against Internal Assessments (IAs) and IB tests. I have also taken an AP test, in US History and Government, the only one South Lakes offers.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask you to help switch South Lakes back to an AP school. The reasoning for this is quite sound.

AP is far more widely accepted. In fact, most universities in the United States accept AP credit. Most do not accept IB credit for anything other than a six or seven on an IB Higher Level test. For those of you unfamilar with IB, getting a six or seven is extremely difficult. There are some subjects at South Lakes in which students never get a six or seven. Therefore, they are denied college credit, consequently causing the cost of college to go up.

AP is designed to teach the material. IB is designed to teach how to write about it. I have been in several classes where I have learned very little about the topic. This is no fault of the teacher, but rather the fault of the curriculum. The curriculum for IB History of the Americas places a heavy weight upon the teaching of things like the OPVL, which is a method of evaluating historical sources. This leads to less time being spent on historical analysis and historical fact, and more time being spent on assorted IB requirements.

Finally, there's the most unpleasant fact of them all. IB is designed for international students. (hence the name International Baccalaureate) However, the vast majority of students do not apply outside of the country. This makes the much-touted IB Diploma worthless. Moreover, universities truly do not care about whether or not the student obtains the IB Diploma.

Only seven high schools offer IB in Fairfax County. If it was as wonderful as some would have you believe, wouldn't all of FCPS offer it?

So, I leave you with a simple option. Request South Lakes transition back to an AP school, which eliminates all of the problems enumerated above OR allow South Lakes to remain as an IB school, denying the student body a number of opportunities. It's up to you, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Paul Stein

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

John Farrell December 19, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Agreed. Let's make this happen. IB was imposed on SLHS without community input in 1999. It serves a tiny fraction of the student body. It constrains SLHS' course offerings for the rest. In order to fill the courses which IB requires SLHS to offer, kids are involuntarily placed in IB classes despite parents' explicit requests to the contrary. Then the involuntarily placed kid can't change classes during the 1st Quarter. IB is more expensive than AP. IB test scores are not reported until July which is after colleges have completed freshman course placement. "Theory of Knowledge" is a watered down version of epistemology, a graduate school level philosophy course. It is sophistry to expect high school students to understand this material when they haven't taken an "introduction to philosophy" course. Quantum mechanics would be more appropriate for high school. Let IB be an academy program at Marshall to which kids can transfer from their base school. AP is more appropriate for the vast majority of SLHS kids. When Fox Mill & Floris were forceably redistricted into SLHS, FCPS promised a community dialog about AP versus IB. That dialog never happened. Yet another broken promise from Dale Fail.
Elizabeth December 19, 2012 at 12:42 PM
I may be a retired fossil, but Paul makes a great deal of sense. In fact, I am shocked that SLHS apparently doesn't care one little whit about providing a useful education. It cares about... what, exactly? Is someone there getting kickbacks for pushing a useless program? At a time when a GOOD education is paramount for everyone, it seems to me that offering anything less is robbing our young people of the opportunity they need to succeed. Making it difficult or impossible to go to college smacks of a deliberate attempt to keep everyone in the poorhouse, thereby allowing the elite few to maintain control. When I graduated High School, that was the only education needed in order to succeed. Today, a High School Diploma will get no one a job. At a minimum, people need two-year college degrees, and that is a BARE minimum. We have reached a point where a two-year degree program should be free, added onto the 12-year program we all went through, and any school system that does not do everything in its power to provide our kids with every opportunity to succeed is robbing them of their futures.
Shannon December 19, 2012 at 04:10 PM
If you look at other IB high schools around the country they offer BOTH IB and AP classes, they do not just limit it to the one! Having come from another school system with my older kids I am quite shocked with a lot of what Fairfax County does and hey are supposedly one of the best in the nation??!! High School students do not need to start as ealy as they require them, they should not have to take a full-load their senior year and made to fell less than stellar if they chose not to continue with the IB cetificate, there should be honors or AP classes for all subjects and making a senior go back and take History 1 after taking History 2 and AP government is just ludicrous - I am so glad I have no more children in this school system!
Phyllis Hobbs December 19, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Makes a lot of sense to me!! We are new to the school system, but I don't like this IB thing. They should at least give the kids a choice of IB or AP. Thank-you, Phyllis
Ned December 19, 2012 at 05:17 PM
I am a 2004 graduate of South Lakes and an IB certificate holder. As I am the only one in this discussion so far to have gone all the way through the program and experienced life afterward, I would like to offer my experiences. I have no problems admitting I was a midland student in the IB world. I graduated with a 3.3 and certs in HL physics/history and SL english/math/art, I was not a full diploma candidate so TOK was not in my course load. I went on to graduate from Longwood University with honors. What the IB program did for me was put me LEAPS and BOUNDS ahead of my peers in college. It's true that I did not receive any credit for my IB classes but I did receive plenty of knowledge. My first year at Longwood was a breeze since it was essentially a repeat of my senior year at South Lakes. Some might say thats a bad thing but as a student who went through it I say those people are idiots. It allowed me to transition into college life with far greater ease than friends from other parts of the state/country. I didn't have the smack in the face of "college level classes" since I was already expected to achieve at that level (at least) the year before. The advantage I had over my classmates due to the IB program was absurd. Simply put, I was ready for college, others weren't. period. This is only my case and there are a lot of variables but all of my friends experienced the same thing. It was rough in HS but beyond worth it in the long run. Buck up Mr. Stein...
Barbara Moody December 19, 2012 at 10:25 PM
I had two children graduate from SLHS with the full IB diploma. It was a wonderful, rigorous program, and it prepared them very well for college. To state that SLHS "doesn't care one whit about providing a useful education" is absurd. It is a wonderful school and the program is extremely worthwhile. The IB program is much more geared toward preparing students for college level work with its emphasis on writing and multi-disciplinary approaches. There is more to a great education than the AP method of teaching for a test at the end of the year. And more to high school than merely saying you can save money on college by passing a test!
Philip December 20, 2012 at 02:02 AM
Although I am a sophomore at South Lakes and have not reached the time in which the IB diploma becomes increasingly crucial and important, the IB MYP program and the prerequisite courses necessary to go on to take the IB classes is terrible. As an adept Spanish student, I cannot take IB Spanish until my junior year. If I were at Oakton or Herndon, if my level warranted it, I could take virtually any course offering provided I took the prerequisite. This year in Spanish 4 is essentially a waste of my time. Next year, students will be skipping Spanish 4, a class that just fills my schedule when I should be in IB Spanish. Not only is that the case, but I cannot take IB Business until my junior year, so I take art an elective simply to fulfill the IB "art" bullshit requirement. Students are wasting time in order to workaround requirements that the IB diploma program values. This includes taking philosophy classes that are extremely difficult to fit into one's schedule and that is unnecessary. I also do not have any Micro/Macro Economics course offering as AP does. While writing skills are critical, AP is more direct a la carte way that students can distribute their time, interests, and succeed under a still rigorous curriculum broadly accepted by colleges. I'm friends with a senior who needs to meet the deadline for his 150 hours in just a few months which will take time away from his part time job at USA Today. Which of the two is conducive to a brighter future? Thanks
LInda A Singer December 20, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Bruce Butler is responsible for South Lakes being back as a school its students and our community can be proud of. Now all that needs to be done, to make it even better, is to return to the AP program. Paul Stein is right. I hope current and future students will be able to earn college credit by taking AP classes and passing the courses and tests.
Paul Stein December 20, 2012 at 10:46 PM
I understand your arguments. I don't agree. I have a minimum of 8 years of education left. I don't want to repeat senior year again. I have done the coursework to an excellent extent. Perhaps it was better for you. The issue is not how it affects me, personally. The issue is how it affects us as a whole. Personally, I see little reason for South Lakes to offer IB over AP.
Paul Stein December 20, 2012 at 10:50 PM
As much as I want to change this, I can't do it on my own. The community has to speak out as well. Parents who want to pay less for college and students who want to get ahead in college need to speak out. This is a winnable battle, it's just one that cannot be won by a few people on a blog.
Kayla Alexander December 27, 2012 at 03:10 PM
I'm a 2003 graduate of SLHS. Maybe scoring has changed or I just got lucky, but I started college with 16 credits due to the IB program, and like Ned, I was also leaps and bounds ahead of my classmates. The IB program helped me prepare for my college courses immensely. Regardless of my experience, I do feel if the students and their parents want AP offered as well, why not? Taking charge of your own education is highly important, and if a student feels they can better succeed in another program, then that is a good enough reason for me to support it.
John Farrell December 27, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Unfortunately, FCPS only allows a school to be an AP or IB program. The exception is Robinson and there is an AP course or two @ SLHS each year. Otherwise, it's strictly IB @ SLHS
Barbara Moody December 27, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Most high schools in Fairfax County offer either AP or IB. It is not possible to offer both in all of the subjects because of the allocation of resources. I do know that if taking AP classes is very important to a student, the County will almost always allow that student to attend another High School in the district. Indeed, South Lakes exceeded their capacity after the redistricting much sooner than expected in large part because a lot of students have requested to attend South Lakes BECAUSE it offers IB.

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