Experiment with the curriculum

It is indisputable that Harvard-Westlake has established itself as a highlyregarded


high school, and now that we have earned credibility in the academic


world, notably among college admissions officers, it is time to broaden our


intellectual horizons by taking academic risks.




The school’s reputation is validated by the


students’ excellent performance on standardized


tests. In 2008, 584 students took 1,731 AP


examinations, scoring 5s on 45 percent of the tests


and 3s or higher on 93 percent of the tests. As a toptier


school, we are free from the constraints faced by


schools attempting to improve in rank. The school


could potentially drop APs from the curriculum


and still expect to maintain prestige. Let’s remind


ourselves that our school emblem states, “They can


because they think they can.” Our motto encourages


us to take greater risks, so let this be reflected by our


curriculum.


If we were to replace APs with honors courses, the


curriculum would become more flexible and allow


for more interactive methods of learning. Even if


wekeep the AP system we could institute creative


ways of learning for instance increasing the number


of field trips. Art History teachers could lead trips to


museums and foreign language classes could interact


with other cultures.


Without pressure to receive excellent grades,


seniors are in the prime condition to explore


academically, and the school should capitalize on this.


While we appreciate the stress-free environment


that follows APs, do we really want to end with


laziness? In seventh grade we came to school each


day excited to learn. Let’s tap into the spirit that


many of us once had and end high school on a high


note. A senior thesis in which seniors extensively


research an area of interest would provide


seniors with the opportunity to enrich themselves


intellectually in an enjoyable manner. The school


could organize internships throughout the city, and


through these internships, seniors would gather


material for a final thesis. Milken Community High


School and Loyola High School have proven that the


innovative curriculum changes we seek are feasible.


The Wise Individualized Senior Experience is a nonprofit


organization that has a chapter at Milken as


well as over eighty other high schools. It provides


second semester seniors with the opportunity to


explore areas of interest through hands-on research


accompanied by an internship. At Loyola, seniors are


required to participate in a three-week project in


which they perform 85 hours of community service


rather than attend classes.


The senior seminars held at our school are a


step in the right direction. It is our hope that the


school will expand programs like this and that they


will eventually be incorporated into the curriculum


of each grade. Students should be able to look to


Harvard–Westlake to facilitate such academic


exploration.

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