WAHS Adds to College Course Menu through Penn College NOW Program

Williamsport Area High School began offering two new college level courses at the start of the school year and, as the first semester draws to a close, favorable results have emerged.

With students averaging scores of 90 or above, the newly offered, three-credit courses, Technical Algebra and Trigonometry I and The Plastics Industry, are leaving district administrators, teachers — and even classmates — impressed.

The two courses are an addition to a list of the more than 20 introductory college level courses already available at WAHS through Penn College NOW, a dual enrollment program that allows high school students to earn Pennsylvania College of Technology credits.

“Penn College NOW provides Williamsport Area High School students with a chance to experience rigorous college curriculum, which helps provide a seamless transition between high school and college,” said Beverly A. Hunsberger, college transition specialist in the college’s Outreach for K-12 Office, which administers the program.

WAHS teachers Patti Miller and Andrew Paulhamus, both charged with instructing the new mathematics and plastics courses, respectively, sat down to discuss the new classes during the last days of the first semester.

“It’s gone really well for the first year,” Miller said.

Her class, comprised exclusively of seniors, covers intermediate algebra and trigonometry that’s “designed to prepare students for course work in … technical majors,” according to the college’s course catalog. The class studies topics such as algebraic expressions, linear equations, systems of equations, right triangle trigonometry, functions, graphs, geometry, ratio and proportion, and variation.

Paulhamus’s Plastics Industry class, available to both juniors and seniors, provides an overview of the industry, including materials and processes, according to the college. Ranging in topics from career opportunities to “the nature of plastic product manufacturers,” the course invites “individual interest-based exploration.”

“(The classes) take on more of a college feel,” Paulhamus said of his course, though it’s a statement that could be applied to each college level class offered at WAHS.

Like college, tests and quizzes primarily serve as the basis for students’ grades, which are kept and recorded by the college, Miller said.

“Penn College provides all the tests,” she said. “They give them (the students) their grades.”

At the high school level, teachers simply direct the course with oversight from faculty at the college. In Paulhamus’s case, the college even provided all the necessary equipment needed to conduct his class.

For students to be eligible, they must first demonstrate academic proficiency on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) reading test and — for some courses — pass placement tests before enrolling in any of the courses.

Senior Evan Jones and junior Kali Farnsworth, both students in Paulhamus’s Plastics Industry class, are looking to pursue degrees at Penn College in a field related to the course.

“It’s giving me a head start — an introduction to prepare for the class,” Jones said, who also is enrolled in Miller’s college algebra and trigonometry course. “Plus, I get college credit for it.”

Farnsworth plans to pursue plastics engineering and minor in sub-psychology, and said that the course is helping her to get ahead while at the same time collecting necessary credits.

For others, like senior Melaina Chapman, one of Miller’s students, said, “It’s a good way to start our future in a comfortable environment.”

“Our teachers treat us like we are in college,” added senior Bill Kennedy, also one of Miller’s students. “It’s a good experience.”

As they look to the future, Miller and Paulhamus hope the new courses continue to grow; Miller also hopes to include juniors on her class roster next year.

The two believe the college level courses help drive seniors as they move through their final year by taking a higher-level course. It also exposes each student, whether a junior or senior, to the rigor of an environment they’ll get to experience when they transition to their next chapter in education.

“Expanding college course offerings in our high school is providing great opportunities to stretch our learners, and I am proud of how well our students and teachers are doing with these new classes,” said Head Principal Michael Reed.

Reed added that the growing partnership with Penn College is “enabling our students to experience authentic college coursework and earn college credit” while still in high school at a fraction of the cost — just $40 per credit.

“(This is) saving parents and students thousands in post-secondary expenses,” Reed said. “Not only are our students mastering content, saving money and adding relevance to their high school experience, they are also gaining confidence on how to successfully navigate their freshman year of college.”

For more information on Penn College NOW, visit http://www.pct.edu/k12/penncollegenow/.

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