After Option ii changes, district introduces new placement policy

After the WW-P Board of Education implemented limitations to the controversial Option ii program, members of the community voiced mixed opinions.  Many claimed the Option ii restrictions are beneficial to students because they stop them from bypassing a course simply to bolster their college applications, while others asserted that the new rules would hold students back from pursuing their passions.

“During the revision process for Option ii, we heard from many students and parents who were concerned about the math course sequencing,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Martin Smith.  “We determined that students should not have to repeat the B section of AP Calculus, so we developed a set of procedures that would allow students to complete all parts (A, B & C) of AP Calculus without having to take both AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC.”

According to Andrea Bean, Supervisor of K-12 Mathematics, a student in Pre-Calculus Honors may fill out an eligibility form to be considered for bypassing the next course in the natural sequence, AP Calculus AB.  A committee of North faculty members reviews the form and determines the student’s eligibility to skip into AP Calculus BC, weighing most heavily the student’s current math grade and PSAT score, but also considering a math teacher recommendation and the student’s rationale for skipping the course.

Eligibility for a student to skip AB replaces the requirement to take an Option ii course over the summer, but in spite of this, the math department still recommends that a student work to become familiar with the material covered in Calculus AB.

“You should definitely still get a background in calculus over the summer, even if it’s just a quick online course,” North math teacher Ardie Allen said.  “In the past, those students who finished Pre-Calc Honors with an A grade and completed an AB course over the summer have done well in BC.”

The BC course includes all of the information taught in AB but moves at a much faster pace and delves deeper into topics later in the year.  “In BC we move ten times faster,”  AB and BC math teacher Bob Boyce said.  “If students skipped into BC without doing any work over the summer, they’d probably end up back in AB in about two weeks.  If they’re motivated to make the jump, they should see a calculus teacher, so we can tell them what they need to learn to be ready.”

In prior years, students were required to pass a school test on the information covered in the summer course, but since the new policy allows students to skip without using Option ii, they are not required to take this entrance exam anymore.  “Taking out the exam is a big mistake,”  Boyce said.  “There’s no way of knowing what the students do and do not know.”

Despite concerns with the new policy, many students are still confident that they can successfully progress further in the math sequence with work over the summer.  “I don’t think BC is too much to handle for someone who didn’t take AB in school,” said junior Jennifer Wang, who took AB via Option ii last summer and is currently enrolled in BC. The new policy also allows AB students to skip BC and catapult straight into Multivariable Calculus, without taking an Option ii course.

Junior Aditya Sripal is currently taking AB in school but has been studying BC on the side with some assistance from calculus teacher Tim Cornell since September.  “Before the new policy came out, I was self-studying the AP exam for BC,”  Sripal said.  “Since I’m taking the BC exam, I don’t feel the need to take the course and would rather learn new material anyway.”

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