It’s history for Honors World History.
Starting the 2019-2020 school year, incoming freshmen who test into Sunny Hills’ honors or pre-IB program will, for the first time, have the option to take an AP class — a path that has been offered only to sophomores and upperclassmen, school officials said.
In this case, the Social Science Department will offer AP Human Geography to all grade levels, including the ninth grade, officials said.
That would eliminate the need for Honors World History classes.
“Honors World History is not very different from our regular World History [class], so the idea was to get a deeper social science education and more AP classes [through] AP Human Geography,” said Greg Abbott, first-year Social Science Department chairman.
Abbott, who helped come up with the idea, hopes that the allure of more AP classes will bring more students to what the Social Science Department is calling the “Social Science AP path.”
After AP Human Geography in the ninth-grade year, Abbot hopes students would continue with AP Psychology or AP European History their sophomore year, followed by AP U.S. History in their junior year and ending with AP Government and AP Economics in their senior year.
“The point is that when students finish four years, they’re going to have 18 units of social science if they pass all of their AP exams,” he said. “That is an entire semester [of college] –– worth $10,000.”
Principal Allen Whitten highly encouraged this change because he has been in favor of expanding class opportunities to more grade levels for several years.
“I want the doors open to a lot of classes for students,” Whitten said. “I don’t like telling kids that they can’t [take a class] until later.”
Abbott and Whitten said teachers in the Social Science Department have been working on such a change for the past five years.
“It was just recently that they all kind of got on board with it [to say], ‘Yeah, let’s do it,’” the principal said.
However, having freshmen take an AP-level course raised concerns for Patrick Debacker, current AP Human Geography and AP U.S. History teacher.
“I think it would have to be clear to the freshmen who are going to take [AP Human Geography] that they need to know what they’re getting into,” Debacker said. “I think as long as everyone understands that [this] is a rigorous course, then the freshmen will do well.”
For a school that currently has nearly 40 percent of total freshmen enrolled in Honors World History — 249 students — Social Science Department instructors expect a multitude of incoming freshmen will sign up for the challenge of an AP course.
“There will be some people ready [to take the course],” Honors World History teacher Robert Bradburn said. “[However], there will be others who take it and find it as a challenge.”
Honors World History teacher David Fenstermaker also mentioned the importance of history for freshmen and sophomores.
“We also have to find ways to make sure that we give history content either in that class or in an AP European History class when they’re sophomores, ” Fenstermaker said.
Currently, only one section of AP Human Geography is offered for the 2018-2019 school year, and that Period 2 class is taught by Debacker.
Of the 36 students enrolled in Debacker’s Period 2 class, two freshmen — a boy and a girl — were allowed to be in the class because they transferred from schools in Los Angeles County and England.
Since the inception of the school, the only freshmen who could take AP courses were students who transferred from schools where they had been enrolled in their respective AP class.
“I’m currently doing fine [in AP Human Geography],” said freshman Jacqueline Kim, who transferred here from Fairfax Senior High in Los Angeles, where she had AP Human Geography on her schedule. “The workload is manageable, compared to my other honors classes, and it’s cool learning about how similar yet diverse we are.”
Sophomore Katie Choi took the AP Human Geography exam as a freshman last year when she was enrolled at Fullerton High School, and she ended up scoring a 4 out of 5 possible.
“On a scale from one to 10, 10 being extremely difficult, I would give the exam a six,” said Cho, who transferred here as a sophomore because of Sunny Hills’ Korean world language program. “It is definitely doable for freshmen.”
Current students at Sunny Hills have differing opinions on whether taking an AP course at the freshman level would be necessary.
“Most schools offer AP Human Geography; I know Fullerton High School does,” sophomore Victoria Buitrago said. “I think that [it] would be good to get AP experience [in my] first year.”
Junior Trinity Blaho, who took Honors World History as a freshman, gave her opinion on whether or not it is fair that freshmen have the choice to take an AP course.
“I don’t think it’s unfair because I think that [any number of students] having the choice of [what] classes [to take] is something that’s good,” Blaho said. “However, I think having freshmen take honors before AP classes will help them prepare for future classes and help them decide whether or not they can do it.”
Whitten offered his insight when asked why AP courses have never traditionally been offered to freshmen.
“Sunny Hills has such a long history of being an elite academic school, and when that’s the case, people don’t want to change a lot of things because people are looking around [saying], ‘Hey, why should we change anything [when] what we’re doing now is working?’” he said.
No information was available as to which Social Science Department members will teach AP Human Geography next school year. Freshmen who do not want to take that class will still be given the option to take college preparatory World History.
“I think it’s something exciting to give the incoming freshmen an AP class,” World History teacher Mike Paris said. “It’s always good to try different things and give more opportunity for kids to take that kind of schedule.”