FAQ: Science Placement
What goes into the placement recommendation in science?
The placement process involves three distinct steps in science.
1.The first step is Explore testing. Students take the Explore test in early December. The science department takes the EXPLORE scores and combines them to arrive at a weighted combined Explore percentile. The weighted score combines the EXPLORE reading, math and science scores to get a combined score with an added emphasis on reading. (reading (50%), math (25%) and science (25%) ) Our data show that this method is the best predictor of where students will experience success in the various freshman science courses available.
2.The second step is gathering additional data that may provide insight. Data such as 8th grade MAP scores and past grades in math and science are added into a master recommendation spreadsheet. This technique allows us to look at the each student using a total of up to 10 different indicators.
3.The third step is the OPRFHS division head making a recommendation based on all of the information available.
Why is there more than one class recommended?
There are actually two answers to this question. If a student is recommended at the college prep level, they will have both 513-Biology and 521-Integrated Lab Science on their schedule. These are both considered college-prep courses. A student can enroll in either class based on their preferred learning style. The ILS program is intended as a three-year sequence during which a student will meet college requirements for three years of lab science. Content covered during the three-year sequence includes life, physical, chemical, and earth/space science. Students opting for 513-Biology are opting for a more traditional sequence that usually includes Biology, Chemistry and Physics during their first three years. You can download a PDF file with additional information contrasting the difference between the ILS and Biology programs (ILS-BIO differences.pdf). You can also download a PDF file with additional information contrasting Biology and Biology-A (Bio513 vs. BioA515.pdf).
Some students get a recommendation for three courses, 513-Biology / 521-Integrated Lab Science and 515-Biology-A. This recommendation means that your student fell on the borderline between an honors and college-prep placement. This usually means that some of the placement criteria indicated an honors-level placement, while other placement criteria indicated a college-prep level placement. If your son or daughter has all three courses recommended, please have a serious conversation with them as well as their counselor before deciding. First, you should talk with your student to see if they want to engage in the honors biology curriculum. Honors biology requires a serious academic commitment on the part of each student. The class is fast paced and the homework load is significant. If your student is registered for honors classes in all of their other subjects, this may be too much to add into their course load. If science is their thing, then this may be an opportunity for them to engage in a very challenging curriculum. You should also discuss what co-curricular activities they plan to participate in during their freshman year. Music, sports, theater are all important aspects of the high school experience. Please talk at length with you counselor if you received all three courses as a placement recommendation.
If I am in honors History, English or Math, should I also be in Honors Biology?
Maybe yes, maybe no. Each curricular area uses slightly different criteria to make their placement recommendations. It is possible that you may have honors recommendations in some areas and not in all areas.
Isn’t it better to take all honors classes?
OPRFHS has guidelines in place designed to encourage students to take a wide variety of classes. Each student can only get additional credit added to their GPA from 24 semesters of honors or AP classes during their four years. This averages out to three weighted classes per year. An “A” in a college prep class is an outstanding grade. Just because a student gets an A in a college prep class does not mean they should be in honors. Most likely this means they had a great experience. Also remember that OPRFHS does not index or “weight” C’s in honors classes. Detailed information on weighted grades for honors classes can be found in the academic catalogue. Your counselor can also explain these concepts in more detail and provide you with insight as to what colleges are looking for in a student transcript.
-If I take regular biology, can I still be recommended for honors chemistry?
-If I take honors biology, will I stay in honors all four years?
-Can I take AP science classes junior and senior year if I don’t take all honors classes?
Honors chemistry is very dependent on math skills. If your student is strong in math and science, and not as strong in reading, most likely they received a placement recommendation for college-prep biology. If students earn an “A” in Biology and earn an “A” or “B” in Advance Algebra, or an A in Intermediate Algebra, their teacher may very well recommend them for honors chemistry. Conversely, if your student was recommended for honors biology due to a strong reading score, but they are not in honors math or earn less than a A in IAF, they most likely will be recommended for college prep chemistry for their sophomore year. Students need very strong math skills to be successful in both the honors chemistry as well as the honors physics classes. Students that do not take all honors classes still can opt to take AP science classes their senior year. See the academic catalogue for prerequisites.
Will my student be prepared for college if they don’t take honors science courses?
At their core, all of our biology, chemistry and physics courses are built around the same set of academic standards referred to as the “Essentials of Biology, Essentials of Chemistry, and Essentials of Physics.” The standards have been agreed upon by a large number of West Suburban high schools. Teachers at all levels make sure that their courses are structured to target these core essential content areas. All students, regardless of level, are given the same assessment at the end of the school year to measure their progress in mastering these core content areas. All of our courses do an outstanding job preparing students for future science experiences in college and beyond. You can view the objectives for our chemistry and biology courses by downloading the following files: Biology Objectives (Biology Aligned Objectives.doc) Chemistry Objectives (Chemistry objectives.doc)