Chemistry Honors denied weighted credit for 2013-14

Jack Shapiro and Jared Schwartz

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Chemistry students gather around a beaker during an in-class lab.   Photo by Levi Schoeben.

Chemistry students, including sophomore Will Goncher, gather around a beaker during an in-class lab. Photo by Levi Schoeben.

Chemistry Honors will not receive weighted credit at Palo Alto High School beginning next year, according to Assistant Principal Kathie Laurence.

According to Laurence, a representative from the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) recently informed the administration that Chemistry H can no longer receive weighted credit because it is primarily taken by sophomores. According to the official UCOP website, “ninth and tenth-grade-level high school courses that schools might designate as ‘honors’ do not meet the UC honors-level requirement and therefore are not granted special ‘honors’ credit by the University.”

“The UC’s are going through periodically as they have time and money and people,” Laurence said. “So as they see things that don’t match their criteria then they inform the school that it can’t have it. Gunn and Paly were both informed that they could not have weighted credit for this primarily 10th grade Chem H class.”

The administration has responded by applying for Physics H to receive weighted credit instead for next year from UCs, according to Laurence. The window opens March 1, except this time the district will be in charge of the submission, Laurence said.

“All of our courses will now be submitted by the district,” Laurence said. “Right now the two high schools [Gunn and Paly] are separate, so even if we have the same course name, if the submissions are not quite the same, you could have one submitted and be honors at one school and not at the other. Now they will all be district-wide no matter what.”

Laurence said the administration is anticipating that Physiscs H will be accepted for weighted credit without any problems.

“Mrs. [Michelle] Steingart and the physics teachers have worked really hard to follow all the guidelines we need,” Laurence said. “It took a couple times to get the conceptual physics down in the format that they [the UCOP] wanted to make sure that it met the requirements needed, so I think that having had the experience with the Conceptual Physics last year, we had a better idea of what they needed for the Physics H.”

By submitting as soon as the window opens, the administration will have the opportunity, if need be, to resubmit it up to two more times, according to Laurence. The administration is hoping to know the results by the end of April.

Although Chemistry H is being denied weighted credit for next year at Paly and Gunn, it remains a weighted class in some schools around the Bay Area.

Despite having a similar science track to that of Paly, Sacred Heart still has a weighted Chemistry H course, according to the UCOP site.

At Menlo Atherton, AS Chemistry (H) receives weighted UC credit although it is primarily a sophomore class, according to the MA website.

But despite the denial of weighted credit for the class at Paly, Chemistry H teacher Carolina Sylvestri thinks that students will continue to take it.

“I don’t think that [the class being unweighted] should matter,” Sylvestri said. “It’s a great, challenging course for students wanting to continue with chemistry.”