New extended-hours program undoubtedly a plus

Oct. 19, 2007, midnight | By Charles Kong | 16 years, 6 months ago

High School Plus brings in its share of benefits

Blair has been forced to adapt to numerous changes this year, from a new grading system to a modified dress code. With High School Plus finally comes a change that should be agreeable to most everyone. After being piloted at four high schools last year, High School Plus is now running at all high schools for ninth and tenth graders across the county and will completely replace Evening High School by 2009.

Although both systems are designed to allow students to retake courses they have failed, the two differ in many aspects, ranging from location and class time to cost and flexibility. The new system comes with numerous advantages that offer students more opportunities while cutting down on multiple burdens and hardships.

High School Plus offers many advantages over Evening School, lightening burdens such as transportation and cost. Photo courtesy of Xin Shan.

A major benefit of High School Plus is the location and flexibility. Rather than travel from all parts of the county to attend Evening School, students will attend High School Plus at their home school. This not only eliminates any troubles that arise when arranging for transportation, but also allows students to learn in a building they are familiar with from teachers they know.

Furthermore, every high school is given the flexibility to design a program that meets the needs of its individual students. These variations give each school the ability to utilize its resources effectively and concentrate on its own students. For example, schools can choose what classes are offered. While some schools offer classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays from about 2:30 to 4 p.m., others offer 67 minute classes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, according to MCPS Alternative Education Specialist Marjorie Jenkins.

As a result, schools are able to enjoy the freedom of arranging the classes based on their own needs. Since High School Plus usually takes place right after school, it allows students to carry out the evening activities they want to do, ridding them of the hassle that occurs with Evening School.

Some students may fear that High School Plus will interfere with plans for after school activities and sports. However all Blair coaches and teachers allow students to fulfill their academic duties first. "We're academics first," Short said. In some schools, students are offered classes during the school day instead, thereby freeing space in the afternoon for extracurricular activities.

The cost of High School Plus is also less than the $45 course fee and $10 supply fee of Evening High School. In fact, it's free. Availability is one thing all schools stress when considering education, and High School Plus follows this belief perfectly by giving all students the opportunity to receive the education they need.

Moreover, the quality of the education will be better, since classes are smaller than those at Evening School. In the seven High School Plus classes at Blair, five have class sizes ranging from 12 to 22 students, significantly smaller than the average class size of around 30 at Evening School.

The minimum requirement of 15 students serves only as a guideline, so there should be no trouble in starting classes. Jenkins anticipates the number of students participating in the High School Plus program will increase in the future, especially as the traditional model of a Regional Evening School is phased out. And in case some schools have trouble in getting enough students for a class, they can form clusters with nearby high schools. This way students from several different high schools will go to one high school and attend class, eliminating the problem of student shortages.

Currently in High School Plus, students can only earn half a credit per semester and cannot take courses for original credit unlike in Evening High School, which allowed students to earn up to one credit per semester. But this is only a temporary disadvantage as Short expects that options for original and additional credit will be available in the future, as High School Plus slowly takes over Evening School.

This gradual phase-in not only allows schools to adjust to it with ease, it also gives students in grades 11 and 12, who have the most urgent need to complete all their courses for graduation, the opportunity to still earn credits faster this year.

With High School Plus, the county has taken a categorical positive step toward providing the students with the best opportunities, allowing each high school to offer courses that are, as MCPS states, "clearly tailored to the unique needs of the student."

Charles Kong. Charles Kong loves to play tennis. Actually, he likes to play sports in general. He tries not to procrastinate, but his success rate varies. He likes listening to music and using the computer, and loves Jackie Chan movies. He is super excited for Chips, even … More »

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