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


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