All those buttons were pushed when the school board began reviewing an AP proposal last month in a rush to meet the printing deadline for the fall course guide.
Initially, the proposal called for phasing in AP classes next fall and discontinuing the honors program in ninth grade, but offering instead an ``enriched'' curriculum, similar to that offered at Cedarbrook Middle School.
The enriched ninth-grade program was immediately met with opposition by parent Penny Dubin, among others, who worried that ``it would dumb down the curriculum,'' and that staff concerns about the number of honors students and the process for selecting them were exaggerated.
``Kids that need the excelled academic content will be cheated. It will lower the quality of the entire grade,'' said Dubin.
After tabling the matter last week and discussing it again in committee this week, the board has decided to vote Dec. 9 on offering AP courses next fall and delay any decisions about restructuring of the honors program until next year.
In the past, Cheltenham has not offered AP because the board reasoned that the district's own honors program was equally or more challenging than the AP curriculum. And because a student does not have to take an AP course to take and pass an AP exam, it seemed unnecessary.
But, said Assistant Superintendent Thomas R. Stretton, ``The world has changed as it relates to honors study, college study, and college admissions. . . . As college admissions are less personalized, having your classes labeled as AP courses rings a bell in college admissions offices in a way that our internal honors program doesn't the way it used to,'' Stretton said. ``In some cases, by not having AP courses, you may unwittingly hurt kids.''
If the plan is approved by the board, the district will offer AP classes next fall in English, calculus, biology, European history, art history, and studio art.
Each has specific prerequisites. For example, to take AP English, a student must have high grades in English courses and be selected by a teacher. But to take AP art history, students need only be willing to do some museum visiting and introductory reading before the class begins.