College Classes in High School

By Sara Ali

New York City’s school system is one of a kind. Where in most places students tend to attend the schools in the neighborhoods they reside in, in NYC, students can choose to attend schools as far as into the next borough. Academic tracking is a system within schools that dictate students’ futures, whether that be where they would attend college and what they might study in college or even go to college at all. Academic tracking separates students based on their skills, academic achievement and scoring and groups them with other students that have similar achievement. These groupings follow them from class to class and students only attend classes with those similar to them, creating a clear distinction between “smart” and “not-so-smart” students. I say this because, the “smart” group tends to have better resources, more difficult course material and are on track to taking additional courses such as honors, college courses etc. These courses further make them a better candidate for colleges to accept.

Speaking of colleges, It’s 2012, I’m sitting in the school auditorium with blue walls and tiny yellow wooden seats. It is lunch for the fifth graders and we’re all packed in the auditorium full of chatter while everyone looks for their seat. As I skip my way into the fifth available seat in the third row in my white button down collared shirt, with navy blue dickens pants and a baby blue pull on hijab, I sit down and look at the stage. The lunch aid, a black woman, in a pretty brown skirt and a red blouse, walks onto the stage with her black heels clicking on the wooden stage. She reaches for the microphone on the stand and says, “Hello everybody, let’s settle

own..” She continues to speak into the mic in efforts to quiet everyone down. When everyone quiets down, she, like many others begin to give us the speech that as a student you hear till you graduate high school. “You know when you are in college, no one walks you to class. Or reminds you to do your homework. The teacher does not get mad at you when you do not do your homework. Your professor will not write a letter to your parents or call home saying “your child, so-and-so hasn’t completed her work in a week.” They just fail you. When the semester is over, at the end you just find out you failed.”

Therefore, that is one speech that as a student you continue to hear till you graduate high school. As young as middle school, teachers and other school staff remind you that college is a place where “you’re on your own” and you have to be responsible enough to complete your goals and tasks on your own and be responsible or else you will not succeed. This speech is an example and a testament to the following statement: All schooling, from pre-k to high school is all geared towards the goal of having college ready students. Hence, as a result, you often see that students that come from average to good schools, are constantly in one way or another motivated and reminded about college.

Similarly, I went to a school called “Preparatory Academy for Writers: A College Board School.” Although this was a joined middle and high school with a very small student body, they tried to market themselves by throwing this attention-catching, triggering, keyword: “College.” There are other high schools that have added “A College Board School” by affiliating with the organization. To be a college board school, it means that “the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program is an extensive program that offers high school students the chance to participate in what College Board describes as college-level classes for a fee, reportedly broadening students’ intellectual horizons and preparing them for college work.” However, in my experience, the particular school I attended barely was even high school ready. My school lacked being an averagely well resourced high school. They failed to even offer basic high school courses such as physics or music and their coursework was not rigorous enough to prepare the students well for regents exam. Regent exams are New York State certified exams in courses that you need to pass in order to qualify for a high school diploma from the state.

Furthermore, we were allowed to take collegenow courses, however, those credits were not even useful for me in school. Collegenow is a program that allows you to take college courses in high school and upon completion and passing of the course you are given college credits. Although I took four collegenow classes, adding up to about thirteen credits in courses like psychology, I was unable to use those credits to count towards my degree. Furthermore, I also completed AP courses, however, taking the AP exam is a business on its own and took away from my experience and learning as a high school student.

Similarly, according to an article written by Sandra Fish on college readiness published on Chalkbeat called, “High School students taking more college courses, but it isn’t enough for lawmakers.” In her article, Fish writes, “Nearly 16,000 students took college or vocational courses through a program allowing students to attend high school for a fifth year in order to earn an associate degree or certificate.” Even though Fish’s article is in support for college courses in High school, this statement proves my point. Why are high school students adding an extra year to be in high school to receive an associates degree when they can be enrolled in an actual college and have the wholesome experience. Also, to clarify, when I say a college experience, I mean the academic experience more so than the social experience. Being in college, you pick and choose the courses that you enjoy learning in. You learn to be more independent in terms of not having the professor call home. Attending a college is not just about credits and earning a diploma, but it is about learning and growing as a person. It is about learning what you’re better at and what your skills are. Whether you’re a test taker or a person who does better when they write papers. Whether you like waking up early and learn better before noon or in the evening. In high school, the majority of the focus is on math or science courses, the humanities are not deemed as important or translate as a credit in every university. Therefore, college education should be more reserved to begin in college.

Secondly, we need to also take underprivileged students into account as well. For example, according to ACS 2017 (5-year estimates), displays students ranging from the age 16-19 year old that are not high school graduates, not enrolled or dropped out. Focusing on Manhattan, most areas on the lower side, which are also more affluent districts display very low numbers of students that were unable to complete high school, let alone complete half of college while still being in high school. We can see that mostly in the northern part, which is Harlem and surrounding low income neighborhoods merging into the Bronx that have the highest concentration of students that are not high school graduates and have dropped out. Therefore, this is an example, of why instead of further creating an elite student class where they have PhD’s by the time they turn 20, let’s properly distribute resources in ways that does not create disparity amongst those that were born into low income neighborhoods.

Figure 1:
Social Explorer Map displaying 16 to 19 year old population that are not High School graduates, not enrolled (dropped out) in Manhattan.

According to an article written by Monica Disare, she explains how funding is distributed in the NYC school system. In order to avoid taking money from wealthy schools, the city decided to give more money to schools with students indicating that they are coming from lower privileged backgrounds. For example, if a school offered dual language, English as a second language program, the school received more funding. This formula was unsuccessful because after the recession hit, schools received less than they should have based on the formula, hence, continuing the disparity amongst “smart” students with all the privilege and underprivileged where their basic needs are not even met.

In conclusion, I am definitely not saying we should not encourage college readiness or offer college courses, but I am saying that while doing so let us not over do it when a number of schools are barely even able to provide adequate high school education. As an public health concentration, I have learned that 65 years old is not the peak anymore, hence, we as humans have more time to pursue our education and this race of trying to be the best and the fastest is only healthy when it is controlled. Trying to set higher expectations of having an associates degree before you even receive a high school diploma is only going to encourage more unnecessary stress and take away the learning from education and turn it into merely just a branding competition.

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