This year approximately 400 high school students from almost 30 high schools had the opportunity to take General Chemistry 1 through our department while still in high school. This may sound like the AP program, but there are distinct differences. In the AP program, high school teachers are approved to teach a set curriculum at their high schools. The content covers most of General Chemistry 1 and 2, but there are topics that are missing from the AP program that are normally taught in our Gen Chem 1 and 2 courses here at Pitt. The curriculum for the year must include a minimum number of lab experiments completed at the high schools. All of the chapter exams, quizzes, and other materials are prepared by the teachers. At the end of the year, the students take the AP exam. If their score is high enough, they can place out of part or all of General Chemistry 1 and 2.
In the College in High School (CHS) program, an instructor (called the liaison) from a university partners with participating high schools and mentors the teachers throughout the year. This requires frequent communication which also helps to ensure teaching continuity between the schools. Our CHS Chemistry course content matches our General Chemistry 1 content at Pitt. The are three exams and a final, all written by the CHS Chemistry liaison. The exams are taken by the students at the high schools and returned for grading at Pitt to ensure continuity. The high school students travel to campus multiple times throughout the year so the students can complete five college level lab experiments in our labs and take the final exam. While the students are in lab, the teachers and liaison meet and discuss teaching and educational topics. At the end of the year, students receive one grade from their high school teacher and a separate Pitt grade from the CHS liaison. This grade will begin their Pitt transcript while in high school and is transferable to other schools if desired.
Teachers and students all comment that the experiences of coming to campus for labs and taking the final exam in a large lecture hall surrounded by a few hundred strangers make a strong impression on the students. Most find the exams and coursework to be challenging and much more rigorous than their high school classes. Some students earn high grades that may allow them to not repeat Gen Chem 1 in college. Students taking CHS Chemistry are typically juniors and seniors in their second year of Chemistry. Regardless of their future college plans and majors, all of the students find that this experience helps them to prepare for the rigors of college.
The College in High School Program at Pitt works with more than 300 teachers in 130 high schools, serving more than 3000 students in 20+ courses. The CHS Chemistry program has been in existence at Pitt for over 35 years. It has been continually growing to its current size of approximately 400 students and there is currently a waiting list to join the program. The high schools in the program are scattered all over Pennsylvania. The closest schools have their students walk to Chevron on lab days. The farthest school travels four hours each way by bus three times per year. CHS Chemistry is challenging and not for every student, but it can be a valuable experience as high school students prepare for college and the challenges they will find there.