English course enrollment shifts due to senior project

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This story was originally published in the third edition of The Lion’s Tale (December 7, 2018).

The senior project is something every student at Oviedo High School hears about their freshman year. It’s a massive project that takes all of senior year and is a major part of the grade in the honors English IV course.

However, some seniors choose to take courses that exempt them from the senior project altogether. There are different ways that a senior can avoid the project.

The first way a student can be exempt from the senior project is to take AP Language and Composition (AP Lang). Students who take AP Lang their junior year can then take AP Literature (AP Lit)  their senior year.

Over recent years, more and more seniors are taking these AP courses to avoid the dreaded senior project, and teachers have noticed.

“There has been a massive increase,” said AP Lang teacher Shayna Hron. “When I started here eight years ago my largest class was 25 students, and that was huge for us. On average we had anywhere between 18 to 22 students in a class.”

This year, one of Hron’s AP Lang classes started with 34 students.

“I did not have enough desks or enough room for more desks, so I had students sitting at my back computers,” Hron said. “There was one day I had to have a student sit at my desk because there was no room.”

According to Hron, some students take AP English to avoid the senior project but end up failing the course and having to drop to honors. This means they must complete the senior project in a shorter period of time than they would have if they had been in honors at the beginning of the year.

“I know that I have at least 20 kids signed up for AP Lang who are only doing it to get out of the senior project because I asked them that the very first day of school and they admitted it,” Hron said. “Unfortunately, they end up taking my class and it is a struggle because, obviously, AP Lang is a college-level course, and those kids end up having to switch. I know I have 11 students currently who are on the chopping block to move down.”

According to English IV team leader Kim Finnegan, the shift has to do with students’ perceptions.

“I don’t think students are necessarily scared of the project, but they think it is more work,” Finnegan said. “So it is more a matter of students thinking, ‘It’s my senior year, I don’t want to work that hard. AP cannot possibly be as hard.’ In actuality, AP is harder.”

Because AP is harder, the English IV team believes students are setting themselves up for a harder course load.

“AP requires so much more writing, much more painstaking editing of that writing,  and a lot more reading,” Finnegan said. “AP is definitely harder than the senior project, especially since you can choose what you do for the senior project. The senior project is all about planning, and I guess sometimes people are scared of that. But it is just a matter of planning and carrying out your plan.”

Teachers realize that the senior project is not something to be taken lightly and that, for some students, it is better for them to take a different than honors or AP.  There also are the seniors that want to take the easiest classes to just cruise through their last year and avoid the senior project.

Some students take standard English IV, while others choose to dual enroll in an English course at Seminole State College or take an English course online.

Finnegan said that the teachers have seen a lot of kids go to standard English that have always been in honors. This year they are in standard just to avoid the project.

“There are kids who have to work and you’ve got kids who are involved in all their activities,” Finnegan said. “You have kids with different mental states, with anxiety and stuff like that, and a lot of these kids build the project up in their head that it is so big and it stresses them out.”