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

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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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