Tag: high school

Friends School Head Weighs in on AP Classes in Letter to The Sun


The Baltimore Sun has published today on its website a letter to the editor from the head of Friends School of Baltimore, Matthew Micciche. In it he responds to The Sun’s story on the value of AP courses in high school. Micciche gives the reasons Friends does not offer AP courses and why the private Quaker school has no intention of doing so. – The Eds.

I read The Sun’s investigative report on Advanced Placement courses (“Some parents, educators are rethinking role of AP,” Jan. 18) with great interest, in part because our school, on principle, has never offered AP classes. Our rationale is simple: We believe the AP program and its heavy weighting toward the memorization and recitation of facts inhibits the development of critical thinking skills and deeper conceptual understanding.

It is heartening to see that the College Board has begun to acknowledge and address this significant pedagogical shortcoming. In a 2011 New York Times article, Trevor Packer, College Board senior vice president, said “the new AP needs to be anchored in a curriculum that focuses on what students need to be able to do with their knowledge.” We concur wholeheartedly with this assessment and have acted on this conviction by continually adapting and evolving our curriculum to develop students who are highly engaged creators of their own understanding, rather than passive recipients of a static body of knowledge.

As reporter Liz Bowie noted in the article, over the past decade a growing number of highly regarded public and private high schools have made the decision to drop AP from their curriculum for precisely these reasons. (Anecdotally, I can tell you that when colleagues at other schools learn that we have never offered AP, they often express the wish that this were the case at their own schools.)

John is on the Grid


More from our writer, Elizabeth Frederick, who takes us on her third journey through the college application process in her column Getting In. This time she chronicles the experience with her son, a sophomore at a local all-boys school. Names have been changed to prevent her kids from killing her protect her children’s privacy. -The Eds.

Our high school sophomore son, John, is officially on the college admissions grid.  He has taken his first set of PSATs, and has a score report to compare with all other 10th graders in the country who have taken the PSAT.  In addition to being a predictor of SAT performance, a tool for rising juniors who will be thinking more seriously about college admissions, the PSAT is combined with the NMSQT, or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.  The NMSC (National Merit Scholarship Corporation) offers scholarship programs for qualifying juniors in the very top percentiles.

Two Baltimore Students Named Semifinalists in Intel Science Talent Search

Lucas Winch and Kelly Khare
Lucas Winch and Kelly Khare

The Intel Science Talent Search has named two Baltimore City high school seniors, Kelly Khare of Medfield Heights and Lucas Winch of Charles Village, as semifinalists in the national science competition. Both Khare and Winch are students of The Ingenuity Project, Baltimore City’s fast-track public school program for excellence in math and science, and attend Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.

Kelly Khare, who was mentored by Dr. Joelle Frechette, was named a semifinalist for her research on “The Effect of Drainage Channels on the Peeling of a Surface Submerged in Fluid,” conducted at the Johns Hopkins Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering. Semifinalist Lucas Winch was mentored by Dr. Peter Olson and was awarded for his research on “Origins of Large Igneous Provinces,” which he conducted at Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences at Hopkins. Both projects were in conjunction with The Ingenuity Project’s curriculum, which provides high school seniors the opportunity to participate in individual research at higher institutions to complement their in-classroom instruction.

Give Yourself an Early Holiday Present: Make Your Teachers and Counselors Your Best Advocates


student at christmas

Some consider teacher and counselor recommendations to be the icing on the cake of a stellar college application, but they serve an integral role in the college application process.

Most understand that the strongest recommendations don’t succumb to platitudes like, “Johnny is a great, hardworking student,” or “Sarah always goes the extra mile in class,” but use anecdotes and examples to illustrate a student’s unique brand of excellence.

The best recommendations, however, also accomplish even more, like corroborating the writing ability in Johnny’s essays or explaining the extenuating circumstances that had an impact on Sarah’s grades.  Recommendations provide context to the many intangible aspects of a college application.

On the Common Application’s recommendation form, for example, teachers are required to rate each student according to 15 qualities that don’t necessarily factor into a student’s GPA (see below).  In my opinion,


it’s no coincidence that academic achievement, intellectual promise, quality of writing, creative thought, and productive class discussion feature at the top of the list.  After all, what college professor wouldn’t want a class full of students who excel in those five categories?

College counselors, on the other hand, fill out a form called the Secondary School Report in which, among other things, they rate the level of challenge of a student’s course selection.  Colleges take this evaluation very seriously: it helps them measure the quality of an applicant’s GPA.  All else being equal, a class schedule filled with honors and AP classes will always trump one without in the admissions process.

Is the Ivy League Out of Reach for Most Baltimore Students?




Last year, Baltimore Fishbowl writer Rachel Monroe reported on the parental angst incited by the low acceptance rates of Baltimore students at elite colleges.  Since then, not much has changed: acceptance rates remain relatively low at area high schools while  New England’s best prep schools still send students by the dozens to top colleges.  Why is this so?  Myths abound claiming either children of billionaires or impoverished students who have overcome impossible circumstances have the advantage, but, in truth, these applicants remain the exception.

Well, what’s the difference?  Do the most competitive colleges have a prejudice against Baltimore?  Not at all.  The difference lies in a simple reality: Baltimore is situated in one of the most competitive geographic regions in the nation.  Colleges first evaluate applicants on a regional basis, and the vast majority of admissions offices group Baltimore with the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.  Savvy D.C. parents—like those in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston—understand the level of competition and realize that, in college admissions, doing well at a good school is only half the battle.  That’s why those aforementioned markets are saturated with excellent SAT tutors, subject tutors, and private admissions consultants.

In this respect, Baltimore lags behind.  Indeed, many Baltimore parents might balk at the rates that the best SAT tutors and private college counselors charge in hyper-competitive markets.  But in New York, $150 an hour for a private SAT tutor is considered on the low end.  Similarly, private counselors offer packages that range from $4,000 to $15,000.  That might sound pricey, too, but these counselors get results.  The best test prep consultants help students achieve an average 300-350 point increase on the SAT, which can make a significant difference in an applicant’s chances for admission.

Vino Veritas: The Wino’s Yearbook


wine shot stock

It was recently brought to my attention that I have a significant high school reunion coming up, and because I served as class president, it is my official duty to plan said reunion, negotiate the where and how our tiny, well-dispersed class can reconvene and judge each other’s successes over the past decade. Actually, I’m not so cynical about the whole thing, I’m really looking forward to seeing faces I haven’t seen in a very long time, opening those letters we wrote to ourselves as high school seniors, and digging up yearbooks…which I love. No, seriously. I love yearbooks. I love the earnestness of Sharpie’d messages scrawled across inside covers, upside down, in circles, around photos, I love that we always meant “keep in touch” and “stay sweet” and every other generic thing we wrote.

One thing about those yearbooks, though, we never got to have those elections, you know? The ones where somebody is the Class Clown, or Leader of the Pack, or Most Likely to be Caught Under the Bleachers with the Chemistry Teacher, things like that. Mostly I think that has to do with our class size, 28 women strong, a number most likely requiring the divvying out of some kind of “award” to each student rather than just a small set (perhaps a repeat of what I recall of my preschool graduation, my four-year-old self baffled by a classmate’s receiving of the “Yellowest Award” due to her fascination for coloring only with a yellow crayon). Still, I feel like I missed something back then, so I’m going to make up for it now combining past and current fascinations. I give you the Yearbook Elections for Wine.

Most Likely to Succeed: Young Bordeaux
What’s sleek, robust, tightly wound, and literally designed to rule the wine world? Why, Young Bordeaux, of course! Step aside, easy-drinkers: these wines really do have something to prove. Long considered a sparkling gem in the viticultural kingdom, Bordeaux, a region tucked into France’s west coast, produces certainly some of the most collectable, most sought after, and most prestigious (read: expensive) wines in the world. Sure, wines designated as “first growths” in the 1855 classification are now astronomically expensive (like set aside two months of rent for a bottle kind of costly), but there are plenty of little growers and negociants who find high quality stuff, and though you may not know their name off the bat, a little digging gives you a good picture of what you’ll be getting into. Sit down, California Cab. You may have the spotlight for the next few years, but this guy’s going to go far, and has already been doing it for centuries.

Getting In: The Ivy League

Nassau Hall, Princeton University. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Nassau Hall, Princeton University. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Most of the Ivies will release regular admissions news this Thursday, March 28. Brown, Columbia, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale will let nervous seniors know that day.  (Cornell, Dartmouth, and Harvard will release in early April.)  There were, needless to say, a number of high school seniors pacing in their dreams this past weekend.

Last year, these most selective universities accepted less than 10 percent, collectively, of the students who applied to them.  Of the 242,621 applications submitted to the eight schools in the Ivy League, only 23,374 were successful, with the lowest percentage for acceptances at Harvard, scraping at a low 5.9% for overall acceptances, and an even lower 4.2% for regular decision acceptances.  If only six out of a hundred kids get in, I sure hope those applicants have a favored runner-up.

Just Older, No Wiser: College Admissions the Second Time Around


As it turns out, we learned nothing last year.  I was hoping we would have gained some insights from having watched our oldest trudge through Senior year, trying to figure out where to apply, how to position herself, which side to feature, to get into the school of her choice.  Unfortunately, it seems, we are just a year older.  No wiser.

Annoying but True: Popular Kids Earn More Money


Are you ready to hear a fundamentally annoying and unfair thing? (Or I suppose it could also be an affirming and confidence-boosting thing, if you had a different high school experience than I did.) The popular kids from high school make more money even 40 years after the fact, according to a recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. So, yes, popularity does matter, in exactly the way you always feared.

Maryland Is Nation’s Second Best Educated State


Maryland is the nation’s second best educated state with 36.9 percent of its population aged 25 or over holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, 24/7 Wall St. reported, citing data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s’ American Community Survey.