Should My Child Enroll in Honors Or General Courses?

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Should My Child Enroll in Honors Or General Courses?
Deciding between honors and general courses for your child's education is a critical choice. This article explores key considerations such as understanding the differences between these courses, assessing your child's academic strengths and aspirations, and seeking expert advice to make an informed decision. With insights from educators and real-life examples, parents can confidently navigate this decision to ensure their child's academic success and fulfillment.

When picking classes for the next school year, parents often fret over whether their kids should dive into honors courses. These classes offer more challenges, but do they mean sacrificing top grades? It's a dilemma: better marks or tougher academics? With honors courses demanding extra effort, it's a tough call. So, here are some insights from school and college pros that can help students navigate this critical decision.

Honors vs. General: What's the Big Difference?

While each state and school community has curriculum standards, most honors and general courses adhere to similar philosophical practices. For example, Wake County Public Schools, one of the largest school systems in North Carolina, divides its high school courses into "honors" and "academic" (average) tracks. In examining the differences in Wake County Schools' 9th grade English course options, parents and students can discuss the similarities and differences between the honors and academic options.

  • Honors 9th Grade English: Students in both honors and academics must read specific texts from a county-wide reading list. An honors course, however, will generally read more texts than an academic course, as the honors course is conducted at a much faster pace. To work more rapidly through diverse materials, honors students will undoubtedly be assigned more homework than an academic class. Additionally, suppose a student in an honors course falls behind or is struggling. In that case, the student must typically seek out tutoring assistance during their own time (during lunch, before/after school, etc.), as the cone student's struggles cannot delay the course's overall pace
  • Academic 9th Grade English: While academic 9th graders will read many of the same texts as the honors class, most of the reading for this track will be conducted in class, as teachers may focus more strongly on successful reading practices and strategies. Students will work at a slower pace to ensure that all class members understand the material, and struggling students typically have more opportunities to receive help in the classroom setting. Generally, students in the academic class setting will have less homework than in the honors classroom.

In examining fundamental and generalized differences between this 9th-grade English example, some students may surmise that the academic pathway sounds much more appealing. With less homework and less rigorous grading standards, students seeking an easy "A" may believe that academic courses are their best option for success; however, choosing courses without careful consideration can lead to frustrating outcomes.

Students who are bright and determined to excel in their studies often express more incredible boredom in academic class settings. While the educational classes are not easy, they are not conducted at the speedier, more rigorous pace that some students crave. As a result, parents can help their child decide which track is better by evaluating their child's specific habits, interests, and needs.

Determining an Honors or General Pathway

When deciding between honors or general courses, parents must first and foremost guide their students by determining their subject-area strengths. Many students who can excel in an honors math class may not excel in an honors English class, and vice-versa.

Yet before students make any decisions, parents and kids should determine if their school offers additional points for honors coursework. As many schools now provide students with "weighted" grades, parents and kids are finding more significant incentives for experiencing the advanced honors challenges. Some schools credit honors and AP students with additional GPA points in a weighted grading system. For example, a "B" in an honors class would hold the same weight as an "A" when determining a student's overall GPA. On the other hand, an "A" in an average course still counts as an "A" for the student's overall GPA.

This video examines the differences between honors, AP, and IB classes.

To determine which classes are best, parents and students can follow basic decision-making steps together:

  • Make a list of the subject areas where the student excels vs. the courses in which the student struggles.
  • Evaluate the courses that were deemed problematic. Have the student reflect on why each particular subject area was challenging. Was the struggle due to poor instruction, lack of organization, inability to turn in homework on time, or more profound course-content challenges? Once the parent and child have discussed the specific problems in each subject area, use the discussion to decide whether the academic setting could help students gain more significant support in particular areas.
  • Next, for the areas in which students excel, students may want to consider signing up for an honors section of the course. Before signing up, however, students should reflect on critical questions:

Am I willing to sacrifice an A to participate in a more challenging class? Does my school offer "weighted" grades for honors work? Will I be able to handle the honors content and assignments amidst my extra-curricular obligations? (Consider sports, hobbies, part-time jobs, etc.) Do I prefer faster-paced courses or more steady and supportive environments? Ultimately, average and honors courses are designed to meet the unique needs of kids of diverse learning paces and abilities. Parents and students can arrange a meeting with their school's guidance counselor for more excellent guidance and information.

Questions? Contact us on Facebook. @publicschoolreview

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