This year Tamalpais High School has implemented a different method of teaching honors classes. For classes like chemistry, world history, and photography, honors and regular students are in the same class, with the teacher differentiating between the two groups by assigning different homework and tests.
Principal Tom Drescher asked chemistry teacher Leslie Hart to try the new method out this year. “Ms. Buchanan at Drake already does [the integrated program] this way and she has for several years, so that was encouraging,” said Hart. While this is a new system and there are logistics and to be ironed out, Hart has good feelings about it.
“With the two courses together, all chemistry students benefit from discussion,” she said. “It really suits honors and regular chemistry because they both funnel into AP Chemistry, so I’ve always had to go at about the same pace, and this way if a regular student wants to go into AP, they’ve had some preparation.”
However, that’s not to say that there aren’t differences between the two courses. There is a significant difference in difficult between honors chemistry and regular chemistry.
“[Honors students] are expected to have a deeper and more conceptual understanding of the material,” Hart said.
It seems to be this very aspect of the new system that worries some.
“I signed up for a class [with] harder lessons so that I would be prepared for harder tests, however, this way we get easy lessons and still [have] the harder tests: we don’t really get the same learning opportunity, but we are expected to make up the difference,” said Tassia Huq, an honors chemistry student.
Sophomore Markita Schulman, an honors world history student, had a similar comment. “I think it’ll be good if it’s less textbook stuff and more project-based, which I think is the plan. But at the same time it could be odd to be doing different work on the same thing at different paces,” she said.
Junior Elizabeth Milosky, a non-honors chemistry student, had a different interpretation. “I think having [honors students] in the same class makes them more similar, which is a little unfair because regular chemistry is similar to an honors course without the honors credit,” she said.
Junior Julianne Ashby, a regular chemistry student, disagreed: “Personally, I see no problem with it, and I’m happy because the kids that are in honors chemistry are in my class even though I’m in regular.”
Honors and regular photography students also had varying opinions regarding the integration of their classes.
“It’s hard because the teacher has to split her time with two different curriculum and the classes are larger, giving less one-on-one time and help from the teachers,” said junior Erin Savino, an honors photography student. “I would prefer not mixed.”
It will remain to be seen whether this new system will prove to be a positive and beneficial one, and if students will be able to overcome the modifications that must come with such a significant change.\
Written by Katharine Hirata. This article originally appeared in the September 2011 issue.