Counterpoint: Should Schreiber continue to offer honors projects?

Charlie Mark, Staff Writer

 During freshman, sophomore, and junior year, Schreiber students have the option to complete an honors project, and many students take this opportunity to boost their GPA. The objective of the honors project is to give students the ability to boost their grade in a class that does not provide an honors class, such as the majority of freshman through junior year English courses, and Global History and Geography I. While many students believe that honors projects are a productive way to ensure a higher final grade in a lower level class, critics of the program are calling for their removal and the subsequent implementation of actual honors classes.

    With the current system, students may choose to complete an honors project at the beginning of the school year.  Completing an honors project at Schreiber is fairly simple, as it consists of reading and writing about two to four books throughout the year and writing responses throughout the process.  For the English honors projects, students usually have to write several essays leading up to the final, lengthiest essay, which is due at the conclusion of the honors project.  Furthermore, students must also maintain relatively high grades in their regular class, as well as stay in contact with their teachers to ensure that the project is being completed well and in a timely manner.  The essence of all of the honors projects is to enhance the students knowledge of the curriculum, as well as to boost the students’ GPA.

     Many people believe the current system is working, citing the fact that students are able to have a better learning experience in a honors class. This is because they are able to participate in higher-level discussions, and analyze complex texts, which they wouldn’t have the opportunities to do in a lower level course.  Thus, these classes better prepare students for their later years in high school, which may consist of numerous AP and honors classes, as well as college.

    “The honors project allows students to explore works independently – though with guidance – and at a pace different from class,” said English department teacher Mr. Robyn Block.

Supporters of the system, such as Mr. Block, argue that the honors project is a great way to enhance knowledge and increase students’ GPA while they are taking a Regents-level course, while still preparing them for future honors classes.

However, the objectives of the honors project can be easily achieved through honors courses. This is because in a such a class, all the goals and ultimate impacts of the honors projects are the same, but it simply much easier for both students and teachers to achieve them. In an honors class, students are able to ask teachers for help within the classroom, which takes away the tedious process of scheduling meetings that is common for honors projects.

     Critics of the current system are therefore calling for the implementation of honors classes in the humanities for freshman and sophomores, citing the fact that students will be able to have a better learning experience. Students in honors classes would be provided with ample opportunities to participate in higher-level discussions and analyze more complex texts than the ones that are taught in a non-honors or Regents-level class. By offering honors classes for those courses that are currently enabling students to complete honors projects in addition to regular classwork, those students who wish to take them will be better prepared for their later years in high school, which may consist of numerous AP and honors classes, as well as college.

      Furthermore, not only are honors projects many times an unnecessary burden for students, but teachers are harmed as well. This is because teachers must schedule their honors meetings during prep time, which could be used as time to outline lesson plans, grade assignments, or develop PowerPoints for their class lessons.  This additionally hurts those students who are in need of help for regular classwork, since those teachers teaching classes offering the honors project must re-allocate their efforts and spend more time on meeting with top students for required meetings for the honors projects, as opposed to being able to meet more often with those who are struggling. It would be much easier for teachers to focus on teaching more accelerated or rigorous material in an honors class, where the curriculum allows for it, if the additional work caused by honors projects was eliminated.  

    “If the purpose of the honors project is for the student to better understand the material, a full honors course would achieve that more than an honors project would,” said sophomore Isaac Goldstein.

    An honors project is not nearly as productive, nor beneficial, as an honors class. An honors class involves more difficult content, which ultimately better prepares young students for the rigorous courses that are offered to them as upperclassmen. Often, students who are taking the honors project excel in regular classes, and the work that they must complete sometimes seems like unproductive “busy work.”

    “If you were to make honors classes instead of honors projects, the school would need to take the honors project kids and put them into a separate class, like they do with those interested in AP Writing. If they did that, I think it would be a good idea,” said senior Dylan Foreman.

    Another main reason that students believe that honors projects should be replaced with honors classes is that honors projects can be very time consuming, and sometimes seem to just be graded for completion.  Many students can take the easy way out, and not put forth their best effort for an honors project, since it is a pass or fail.  On the other hand, higher-level classes are not graded like this, and truly force students to work for that “A,” which helps improve both students’ study habits and time-management skills.

    “The honors project can be trickier than an honors class at times because not only do you have to partake in your regular English class, but you also have to work around your existing schedule to meet with your teachers to discuss the honors reading.  It arguably takes more time and self-initiative to complete,” said junior Ashley O Neill.

    Overall, while honors projects may increase your GPA at the end of the year, they are not nearly as productive as an honors class.  In an honors class, you are able to obtain more information and learn at a much higher level, which enables you to be more prepared for future, more rigorous courses.  Thus, for all of these reasons, Schreiber should consider replacing honors projects with honors courses.