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Advanced Classes for Freshman

“Why is my Freshman child taking an advanced class, and what is the advantage of doing so?” That question is rarely asked by parents or students.

Middle schools love to enroll their prospective graduates into advanced high school classes because it gives the guise that those middle schools are doing a good job in teaching their students. A middle school that places 40% of their graduates in advanced high school courses, will be looked upon more highly than one which only places 30% in advanced courses. These percentages are looked at by the Nevada Superintendent and Board of Education, who determine which middle schools are pulling their weight and, subsequently, which deserve to retain funding. That is why teachers initially choose the levels for Freshmen required courses, and the students can only pick their electives.

In order for teachers to defend their decisions, they only enroll students who get A's or B's in their 8th grade classes. In other words, if a student gets a B in Pre-Algebra as an 8th grader, then he/she will be enrolled in 'Advanced' Algebra 1. If a student gets a B in 8th grade Science (which is a very loose overview of Geology, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics), then he/she will be enrolled in 'Advanced' Biology as a Freshman. I can't count the number of my students who received A's or B's in 8th grade, were enrolled in advanced high school courses, and are finding it impossible to keep pace with the curriculum. Teachers and guidance counselors say that colleges give more consideration to grades achieved in advanced or accelerated courses, so parents and students just accept it as fact. The truth of the matter is that, more often than not, taking an advanced class is more a detriment than an advantage.

Keep in mind, that the following scenarios and examples are independent of SAT or ACT scores, how many social clubs or fund-raisers you are involved with, etc.

There is only one scenario where taking an advanced class is an advantage: If you get a really good grade (no less than an A-). If you think that you can get an A in an advanced course, then by all means, take the class. An A in an advanced course is looked upon highly by prospective colleges. Advanced classes were instituted to cater students who are advanced to the point where they would be bored with a regular class. These students would get A's in either level, so they are given extra credit for taking an advanced course.

However, any other scenario is either a wash or a disadvantage. Example 1: You get a C in an advanced course. You worked harder than you would have if you had taken a regular class and your GPA suffered somewhat from the C. Your prospective college will look at it and say, “Okay...This kid took an advanced course...But he only got a C...so who cares?” Example 2: Your cumulative GPA is 3.25 (with you taking all advanced courses), and my high school cumulative GPA is 3.75 (with me taking no advanced classes). Our prospective college will say, “Okay...Here's a kid with a 3.25 GPA...Hmm...All advanced courses...Not too bad. Hold on...This kid has a 3.75 GPA...Wow...He's in.” Granted, those are over-simplified examples, but the point remains intact.

Now, when you become Juniors or Seniors, you can take AP (Advanced Placement) courses. In those, if you get a C or better, you will receive actual college credits. AP courses are incredibly helpful in relieving your course load when you enter college. As for high school Freshman and Sophomores, I'll break it down as simply as I can: Unless you have your sights set on getting an A, I see no reason in taking an advanced class.

--Editor, Tutor Pros

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Daniel Dayan of Tutor Pros

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