Course changes 2014–2015

AP Physics 1

Grades 11–12, 6.4 Credits, Year

When fall rolls around, expect a major change to the Princeton High School science curriculum. AP Physics I will replace Physics I Accelerated—eliminating it from the Program of Studies—and AP Physics C will take the place of AP Physics as the second course in the series.

According to physics teacher Mark Higgins, “[The College Board] had what was called AP Physics B and an exam associated with that, but there was a lot of breadth to that, not much depth.”

While the Physics B curriculum contained sections on nuclear physics, modern physics, and relativity, the new physics course, like Physics I Accelerated, will not cover these sections. “The curriculum for AP Physics I is very similar to accelerated [physics],” said Higgins.

Science supervisor Cherry Sprague suggested that there were other motivations behind the course change. “What the College Board was trying to do was really to increase kids’ ability to think that when they have a certain amount of algebra, they can start doing physics at an AP level, and they don’t always have to have calculus.”

Looking to the future, Sprague anticipates that the status of AP Physics I as an AP course and its ability to prepare students for AP Physics C will lead to a high enrollment. “We used to have a time [when a lot of students thought that they shouldn’t] take physics, so I think part of the mindshift has been, if you’re going to be a well-educated student, [taking] biology, chemistry, [and] physics, is very, very good. Colleges still look very pleasantly on all that,” said Sprague.


Critical Reading and Writing

Grades 9–10, 2.5 Credits, Sem

Prerequisite: None

Critical Reading and Writing, a semester course available to ninth and tenth grade students, will be a new addition to the English department next year.

According to the Program of Studies, the course “is aimed at strengthening reading and writing skills, building vocabulary, developing research and study skills, and improving students’ ability to read with a writer’s pen and write with a reader’s eye.”

“I think that it will also supplement the skills that students don’t really get a chance to hone in many of the elective classes,” said English supervisor John Anagbo. “It’s going to be this continuous cycle of [always] reading … and [always] writing.”

In contrast to the HSPA English course, Anagbo said, “I don’t want [this course] to be solely test-based. That is the whole conception—that it would replace something that is test-based.”

There is still a possibility that the course could also be available to other grades in the future, but achieving a mix of ages could prove difficult. “What I really [don’t want to do] is to mix the grades in a way that makes it difficult for whoever is teaching it or for the students themselves, because I want to get the maximum out of this,” said Anagbo.


Algorithms and Data Structures

Grades 10–12, 5.0 Credits, Year

Prerequisite: Completion of AP Computer Science

With enrollment in computer science courses quadrupling by the estimation of mathematics teacher Graciela Elia, PHS will be offering a new course in this field next year: Algorithms and Data Structures.

As an advanced course following the completion of AP Computer Science, “the course surveys the most important algorithms and data structures in use on computers today,” with a particular focus on algorithms for sorting, searching, and string processing, according to the Program of Studies.

“We have enough students in the AP Computer Science class who are not seniors that will need to take another class, so this new class will be perfect,” said Elia. “This will catch all those students who do not qualify for the university but [who] still want to continue computer science classes.”

Don’t expect enrollment to decelerate any time soon, as the College Board recently added a new course called AP Computer Science Principles. This course focuses on the practical, hands-on applications of the computer science field to satisfy students who want more exposure to this type of learning. “I’m hoping that … in a couple of years we’ll [also] have it here,” said Elia.