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klmama

Honors courses - what is required for the label?

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My older dc did what I expected, and based on the amount of work done I'm quite sure some of the classes would have been classified as honors in a public school, but I didn't give them that label.  It didn't really matter for the college paths they chose, as those schools unweighted all students' grades.  Apparently, though, it would help my youngest's chances of admission and scholarship $ at some preferred schools if honors courses were taken, so I need to know what separates a regular class from an honors class.  Is there some kind of standard definition?  

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No, there is no standard definition. It needs to be more rigorous that a "regular" class, but since the rigor of "regular" classes varies widely by school, the designation does not make much sense. It is in the eye of the beholder.

AP, OTOH, would be a well defined designation, since the course would have to follow a College board approved AP syllabus.

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I'm not sure if this is helpful to you at all, but my oldest is at a private school and I can tell you what differentiates honors from traditional there.  The short answer:  very little.

English:  each marking period, honors has a separate novel that has to be read outside of class (DS is a sophomore, and his outside reading this term is Julius Caesar, last term was Fahrenheit 451) with quizzes/tests along the way; also, for writing projects honors needs a 4th or 5th topic/point where traditional classes only need 3 or 4.

Math:  there is no difference in content; honors class is about a week ahead in the book

Chemistry:  no difference whatsoever (there was no difference in Bio either, not sure about any higher levels)

Spanish:  honors students have to work on a project each semster on their own, whereas traditional class does it in groups (this is usually a report/presentation about a country, or a report about a famous Hispanic person, etc).  The pacing is a bit faster, and they are required to speak more Spanish in the classroom than the traditional class.

History:  there is a longer/more detailed question on each test for honors, but there is no difference in subject material covered or pacing of class

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Two additions to the above:

  • A college-level textbook 
  • Rigorous in the level of thinking and output compared to a regular high school class.

To me, it's not about fast work. And it's not about more work. It's about deeper work.

I would look at various high school syllabi online for a better idea.

 

 

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Thanks.  I wish my local school district's course descriptions were more detailed.  They basically say they go deeper and wider, with more rigor.  No details about what that means.  I'll keep looking online. 

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18 minutes ago, klmama said:

  I wish my local school district's course descriptions were more detailed.  They basically say they go deeper and wider, with more rigor.  No details about what that means.  I'll keep looking online. 

 

A nearby public high school, these are what I found

biology vs biology honors http://www.mvla.net/LAHS/Department/116-Academics-departments-and/Portal/518-Biology-Biology-Honors-comparision

geometry vs geometry honors http://www.mvla.net/LAHS/Department/116-Academics-departments-and/Portal/geometry-vs-geometry-honors

algebra II vs algebra II honors http://www.mvla.net/LAHS/Department/116-Academic Departments and Course Information/Portal/algebra-ii-vs-algebra-ii-honors

 

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This is the explanation I included in the School Report on the Common App to explain my criteria for an Honors designation:

"Courses designated as Honors were those that (1) used college-level materials, (2) required significantly more work and deeper analysis than would normally be expected at a high school level, and (3) covered subjects in which standard high school courses could provide a basis for comparison."

I did not use the honors label for courses like Intro to Linguistics, World Languages, World Music, or Classical Art & Architecture, because even though they used college level texts and lectures, there's really no "standard high school level" courses in those subjects to compare them to.

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Jackie, you reminded me that I never used the term "honors" on the transcript and I noted why in the school profile. Grades were backed up in other ways, so it just wasn't important.

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I hadn't originally planned to use the honors label until I read a conversation on CC among kids whose schools weighted AP but not Honors, and they felt it really put them at a disadvantage for scholarships since the vast majority of high schools in their state do weight honors, and the university does not reweight grades. DS's university is also one of the few that is already using the new self-report section for courses and grades, which requires you to label each course with one of the available options on the pull-down menu (DE, AP, IB, Honors, College Prep, etc.), and I didn't want adcoms looking at a long list of "basic" college prep courses when most of the other applicants would have lots of honors labels. Especially since most of DS's English, History and Foreign Language courses were genuinely well above the level of most PS "honors" courses, so I felt he deserved an honors designation for those.

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I called it honors if:

  1. The vendor calls it Honors
  2. The vendor calls is a "University Level" class (in particular Stanford OHS)
  3. It's an AP class
  4. It's AoPS
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19 hours ago, lisabees said:

Jackie, you reminded me that I never used the term "honors" on the transcript and I noted why in the school profile. Grades were backed up in other ways, so it just wasn't important.

 

Lisa, do you know if not listing anything as honors (assuming some courses could have been listed as "honors") affected GPA &, thus, potentially scholarship offers?

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Like GPA, the "honors" designation is so subjective. There's no objective standard out there. College admissions folks must know this. Since the whole thing seemed silly and arbitrary, I wasn't going to use "honors" designations on my kids' transcript, but I didn't want to put them at a disadvantage in the college app process when compared to other brick & mortar students. So, I labeled a course "Honors" on the transcript if

1) the provider called it "honors" or "college ..." (ie, TPS's "College English" classes), or

2) the course used a college text  (ie, Lukeion's Latin & Greek courses)

I also called WHA's Great Books 6 course an "honors" course because of the level of the texts read, but I only gave one credit for it rather than the two credits WHA says it is.

It's very arbitrary. I just did my best to use the "Honors" designation honestly, and I did make sure to fully document texts used and output required in our Course Descriptions document.

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There used to be a poster on another homeschooling board who was constantly telling parents not to put grades on homeschool transcripts. She had briefly worked in admissions, and she insisted that adcoms totally ignore homeschool grades anyway and that it makes the transcript look suspicious when most or all of the homeschool grades are As, so it's better to just leave them off. Most homeschoolers disagreed, saying it's better to include grades; an admissions reader can choose to ignore them if they want, but at least they're available for those who do want them.

I think of the "honors" designation in a similar way. Yes the criteria are subjective — but they're just as subjective at every PS and private school in the US, so I don't think the subjective nature of it should prevent homeschoolers from doing what every other school does. Also, if you choose not to label higher-level courses as honors, by default you are labeling them as "standard." (And this is explicit if you are applying to one of the schools that requires self-reporting coursework and grades on the Common App — you have to choose a designation.) At colleges where "rigor of coursework" is one of the top considerations, they are going to expect to see honors/AP/DE classes on the transcript, and there's no guarantee they are going to read every word of the course descriptions (assuming they even want course descriptions). If adcoms want to ignore honors designations from homeschoolers, they can certainly do that, but no one In admissions is going to go back through a homeschooler's transcript and add honors designations and weighted grades that were not there to begin with, so IMO we may as well include them (where appropriate) for those schools that do want/expect to see them.

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One thing I remember from the School Fair we attended 2 nights ago, in Bogotá, had to do with Rigor.   They explained how they know how much this can differ, from one school to another. They try to evaluate the Rigor of the school, when they look at the courses taken, grades received, class rank, etc.  For me, IMO, Home Schoolers have a harder job explaining the Rigor of their school.  I heard "Home School"  or "Home Schooled" mentioned at least once during their presentation. I tried to write a brief report yesterday, after our flight home from Bogotá, and it is in the College forum here on WTM.   The 4 schools were: Duke, Georgetown, Harvard and Penn.   IMO if a Home Schooled student has taken 1 or more DE courses, that would be a "plus" when the Admissions person evaluates the application and (hopefully) presents the student to the Admissions Committee for a vote.   They did not seem impressed by "AP" courses.  They are looking for a lot of information about the person, not just courses taken, G.P.A. and SAT/ACT scores.  Those are schools where the average financial outlay per family is $12K USD and where many students receive a "full ride" based on "Need".  They offer little, if anything, in the way of "Merit" aid. 

 

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11 minutes ago, Corraleno said:

I think of the "honors" designation in a similar way. Yes the criteria are subjective — but they're just as subjective at every PS and private school in the US, so I don't think the subjective nature of it should prevent homeschoolers from doing what every other school does.

 

I agree completely. Hope I didn't imply otherwise!  I remember for a while seeing a flurry of suggestions that we, as home schoolers, should not feel obligated to put grades on courses. I think perhaps there was a certain hubris involved in that thinking... We home school; we don't need to follow the same rules/processes as everyone else. I recently saw that at least one very vocal proponent of that approach on another board now feels it was probably a mistake to have not included grades on his student's transcript.

There is no objective standard for "Honors" in the US-- not across public school districts, not across private schools, not among home schoolers,....  let alone across the country.  However, it's something college admissions folks are used to seeing and used to looking for.  As silly as it might seem to bother labeling courses as "Honors" or whatever, it _may_ make a difference to the colleges to which your student ultimately applies.

Look at what public schools, private schools, and other home schoolers use to determine "honors."  Figure out what your own criteria are going to be and explain in the School Profile and/or in the Course Descriptions. It's the best you can do.

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49 minutes ago, yvonne said:

I agree completely. Hope I didn't imply otherwise! 

Oh not at all — I didn't mean for my post to seem like a reaction to yours, I was just thinking about that poster who was always telling homeschoolers not to use grades, and I've seen the same argument about honors labels: don't bother because adcoms will just ignore them. But no one is telling traditionally schooled kids not to bother with honors courses because the criteria are too subjective so colleges will just ignore them — quite the opposite. And after seeing what passes for "honors" in some public schools, I think "subjective" is probably the most polite and euphemistic word I could use to describe their criteria!

Here's a particularly egregious example: the largest part of my niece's fall semester grade in 9th grade Honors English was... a "Flat Stanley" project. I kid you not. Each student created a Flat Stanley in MS Word (because drawing pictures with the graphics tools in Word is a highly employable skill, amirite?), then mailed it to someone who was supposed to take photos of it in various businesses, while collecting copies of brochures and flyers for those businesses. Then the students were supposed to create a Power Point presentation about the businesses and how they use technology. I initially thought this was for some sort of business or IT elective, and was shocked to discover it was for Honors English! I took photos of Stanley in various businesses, and emailed them to my niece with an explanation that most of these businesses didn't have flyers or brochures because they have websites now, and I talked a bit about the different ways they use technology. Apparently my niece cut-&-pasted the text of my email plus the photos into Power Point and not only got an A+ on the project (which was the Big Major Project for fall semester), but the teacher told her it was "head and shoulders above every other presentation" — which gives you an idea of just how low the bar must have been. She never read a novel or wrote a single essay in that entire year, but her transcript shows an A in Honors English 9. Same kid got As in Honors Algebra 1 and Honors Geometry, but quit halfway through TT Algebra 2, with a low C average, because she said it was waaaaay harder than her Honors math classes in school.

If kids from schools like that are going to be competing for the same scholarships as my son, I'm definitely going to label at least some of his courses as Honors, when he did more in one month for those classes than my nieces and nephews do in an entire year-long "honors" class in their PS. 

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Corraleno, that's... so many options... sad?  pathetic?  disturbing?  Thanks for sharing. 

After looking at some more course decriptions from "good" districts, I am now 100% confident that at least our language arts and history courses should have honors labels.  Dc's math has an honors label from the provider, if the harder work is done, so we will go with that.

However, I'm still not clear on the difference in expectations for an honors science class.  Would anyone care to share the distinction you would make?  ETA: I see what the school in Arcadia's link says about the difference between biology and honors biology, but I would like to know if people have other ways of determining this. Thanks.  

 

 

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I wouldn't say a college level text is necessary - honors geometry is simply high school geometry at a deeper level.

I would say that the students should be expected to go deeper/farther than regular students.

I did not use Honors for my first son. He's at a highly selective university now and doing great. However, I think the lack of Honors description hurt him at one state U that takes weighted grades into consideration for scholarships (and they did not weight his grades) and another Univ. that did not look at his transcript holistically, but played the numbers game and his lack honors designation probably hurt.

I will use Honors it for my second son. Most of his classes are either "regular" or AP. Both Derek Owens and his Latin provider call the courses Honors so I will also. The AoPS courses are the only home-taught courses that I am labeling Honors.

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DD will be doing the Honors Algebra track with Derek Owens next year so I will apply that designation but I will also apply it to her English/Language Arts class even though it’s homegrown. I’m confident that the thinking and writing I require will meet or exceed those of the the school she’s coming from and the one she’ll eventually go to. Tracking is big in both places and she deserves to be placed with students working at the honors level. I would do a google search for honors syllabi for the courses you’re interested in and see how your class stacks up, giving particular attention to districts nearby.

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The only classes that have the "honors" label in the course title are those that were named that way by outside providers.  But I have also added a code that indicates the level of each course.  R is for a regular high school level course, H is for an honors level high school course (these are all outside providers), and A is for an advanced course that used, at a minimum, college level resources.  The "A" courses are my way of labeling homeschool courses as being honors level without calling them honors level (AP classes also get the "A" designation).

Edited by EKS

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6 hours ago, klmama said:

 ETA: I see what the school in Arcadia's link says about the difference between biology and honors biology, but I would like to know if people have other ways of determining this. Thanks. 

 

I didn't label any of my kids' science classes "honors" because they only used a standard high school science text for their bio, chem, and physics. If the provider had labeled it "honors," I'd have gone with that. Derek Owens has an "honors" physics track where students are expected to complete additional, theoretically more advanced problem sets. 

For AP science classes, those are already labeled "AP Chem" or "AP Physics." If the student had self-studied for an AP Bio exam, I'd have labeled it "Advanced Biology with AP Exam."  

For an "honors" science class, at a very minimum I would expect a well-done lab notebook.

It might be easier to go at your question from the other end: "Here's the text we used, the labs we completed, and the testing/other output we completed, etc. Would it look out of place to label it 'honors'?" 

 

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We live in PA and my daughter is getting her diploma through Erie County Homeschoolers association. They have very clear criteria for courses that they will label as "Honors" which then can lead to granting a diploma "with honors" in those subjects (maximum of 2, my daughter will be getting honors in English and Social Science).

While their criteria are geared towards the specific requirements in the state of PA, and obviously granting a diploma with honors is a bit different than designating a specific course as "honors," you might find their criteria to be useful: http://www.echsdiploma.org/diploma.html

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