High school adds new online STEM courses

Next year, an online AP Computer Science class will be added to the high-school curriculum. The addition of an online math class is being deliberated.

Both will be offered through Amplify Education, an online program.

The idea for an online math class was suggested by sophomores who are  taking AP Calculus AB, as well as two freshmen in Pre-Calculus Honors.

“(The students and I) wondered if they will be well served as seniors by taking AP Econ, or would it be better if we opened up an online differential calculus or statistics class for them,” said Brooke Wells, head of the high school.

Freshman Atsuo Chiu, who is in Pre-Calculus Honors, said that he was very excited when he heard that another level of math might be added.

“Having the chance to take another AP math class without going to an actual college campus will be so convenient for the sophomores and us (freshmen),” Chiu said.

“It’s really nice that the school listened to our requests.”

However, the decision to add another math class will be officially determined by the math department, Wells said.

“There is talk now that Country Day already has AP economics as the additional math class,” he said.

“The problem might be that there are too many divergent needs to offer one specific class.”

Wells expects that the new math class will be popular, but it won’t start until the 2016-17 school year because it is being created specifically for the class of 2017.

AP Computer Science, however, is expected to begin in September.

The addition of AP Computer Science was just an obvious decision, Wells said.

“If you look at (Country Day’s) program, computer science is pretty glaringly absent, so we can’t exactly credit anyone with the idea. It’s kind of like, ‘Let’s teach English!’” Wells said.

However, he did admit that the Octagon first brought up the idea in its Oct. 28 editorial.

The editorial stated that 52 of 114 students said that they would be interested in taking computer science.

Junior Jacob Durante agrees.

Durante and fellow junior Keaton Ochoa are currently teaching themselves computer science during one of their free elective periods. They have been using an online textbook written by professors at Princeton University.

Durante has always been fascinated with computers, he said.

Ever since he was little, Durante has been working on computers, including building his own, with a little help from his father.

He also wants to be an electrical engineer, because his father is one and his sister is studying to be one. And an electrical-engineering career requires a background in computer science.

“It is awesome that they’re planning on doing this next year because I will actually have a place to go sit down and do the class, instead of just sitting in (history teacher Bruce) Baird’s room, and I won’t have to take the AP class by myself at a community college,” he said.

For this reason, Wells predicts that the class will be successful.

“Other independent schools who have used (Amplify Education), like the Bentley School in the Bay Area, found that their classes have been more successful if there is a time and place for the classes,” Wells said.

Since the class will be provided by the school, students won’t pay any additional fees.

However, the class does need faculty advisers, Wells said.

Advisers won’t teach the subject but will instead supervise during the time of the classes. The advisers will also make sure that the students are on their modules and will check in to see if they have completed lessons, as well as send out progress reports if needed.

Both Baird and Wells are considering advising.

“In fact, I’m planning on  taking the course myself while I supervise. I’m thinking that once you learn how to code, it’s like witchcraft. There’s got to be something cool you can do with that information!” Wells said with a laugh.

Since the number of students isn’t definite, there is some degree of flexibility on when the class will meet.

“There could potentially be two classes during totally different times of the day,” Wells said.

Although the times are uncertain, the grading policy has been confirmed.

“The class will go on the left side of our transcript, and just like any other AP class provided by Country Day, it will have a full weight,” Wells said.

However, he is still waiting to see if the UC’s will give credit for the class.

“(The AP Computer Science class) is a College Board class, and UC’s automatically approve College Board classes, so it would be very odd if the class wasn’t accepted,” Wells said.

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