COTTONWOOD – Until recently, there was a chance that Mingus Union High School was not going to offer an AP Calculus class for the 2017-2018 school year.
According to the Dr. Jack Keegan, the district’s interim superintendent, an “early-bird” AP Calculus course will be available for students at what amounts to a zero-period, before the first-period bell rings at 8:40 a.m.
And the school’s calculus instructor will lead six classes each day, rather than the typically-desirable five classes, Dr. Keegan also said.
“We were able to place the seven kids in the class, outside the day before it starts,” Dr. Keegan said. “We were able to start the class earlier in the day to not impact class sizes of the other math classes.”
Before committing to offer AP Calculus, Dr, Keegan had proposed that students in need of the course take it through Yavapai College’s dual-enrollment program. Though that is a solution in many cases, at least one student said it was not a viable option.
“Dual enrollment credits through Yavapai may not transfer to universities out of Arizona,” said 17-year-old Pei-Wen Yang, currently a junior at Mingus Union.
Yang also researched the opportunity for high school students to take the calculus program at Yavapai and said that the community college would require students to enroll in at least “four classes in order to take this class through Yavapai, since the class interferes with fifth period, further limiting our schedules.”
In the past few years, several students have enrolled in Mingus Union with a four-year plan for the next steps – college and career. Expecting the full slate of AP courses played a role in those students choosing to attend the Cottonwood school.
One of those students designed her schedule “with the promise of the availability of these classes.”
Camp Verde resident Mackenzie King, who will be a senior in 2017-2018, spoke to the Mingus Union school board in April and asked – pleaded – that the advanced courses not be cut.
“The supposed alternatives being offered are not of the same caliber, and will hinder my chances for scholarships and admissions next year,” she said following the meeting – which was before Dr. Keegan’s decision to keep the AP Calculus program. “The credits from these classes also do not transfer to most universities outside of Arizona, unlike AP credits which are accepted at far more institutions.”
According to King, AP classes are “necessary for the success of students following high school.” Said her father, Cottonwood-Oak Creek Assistant Superintendent Steve King, a school’s struggle to fund programs “is but a symptom of the deeper problems of the systematic defunding and dismantling of our public schools in Arizona.”
Though further from graduation than King, 15-year-old Saya Federbush is also preparing for her future.
“If AP classes are not included within the next school year’s curriculum, many students will not be adequately prepared for their future and upcoming students will not have the opportunity to strive for the best,” Federbush said.
Increase AP participation
According to Dr. Keegan, Mingus Union considered not offering the AP Calculus program and other AP courses for the upcoming school year because of “not enough enrollment.”
“Seven [for AP Calculus] is really low,” Dr. Keegan said. “We’ve got to raise participation with the AP courses. We try to have at least 12 for AP courses.”
With fewer students enrolled in the school’s pre-calculus class, newer are subsequently taking the AP Calculus, Dr. Keegan said.
“Fairness and balancing teacher workloads” is one concern for the district as it structures its AP offerings, Dr. Keegan said. Another concern is the school’s budget.
“At issue is funding classes with low enrollment,” said Anita Glazar, Mingus Union board president. “It is disappointing to our board and absolutely unfair to our students and staff. I know Dr. Keegan is looking into creative ways that Mingus can continue the AP program[s] for next year as well as school goals encouraging students to participate.”
For the new school year, AP Calculus will begin at 7:45 a.m., almost an hour before first period.
“It’s a balancing act of what all we can do,” Dr. Keegan said. “You try to answer as many needs as you can.”
According to Mingus Union board member Jim Ledbetter, the “bottom line” is not just making AP courses available but finding a way to staff them.
“What we did is create an environment here where the kids can get dual enrollment, and in receiving dual enrollment, it guaranteed with a C grade or higher of receiving college credit in those courses,” Ledbetter said. “Some states don’t receive a transcript of junior college credit, but certainly in-state, it’s a great thing for kids.”
Ledbetter also said that “making sure the highest education offerings are available to our kids is such a priority.”
“We all want the best for the kids,” Ledbetter said. “If only the state knew what it was doing when it continues to underfund education.”
AP courses at Mingus Union for 2017-2018 will include calculus, language, biology, history, world history, psychology, studio art and English.
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