JC strives to meet preparatory school standards


Emily Clarke, Print Chief

With all the choices of schools in Harford County, JC tries to separate itself by using the title “college preparatory” school. JC prepares its students for college with high SAT scores, higher grade and class requirements, and severe consequences for absence.

While JC scores are above the Maryland average and national average on SATs, JC does not have the best SAT scores in Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) for each category. As the bar graph below indicates, JC has the highest writing score at 518, but falls behind multiple HCPS in the mathematics and critical reading sections.

Despite JC not scoring the highest on the SATs, JC boasts an 80% attendance rate to 4-year colleges after graduation. The other 20% is split between 19% attending a 2-year college and 1% joining the military. In HCPS, 29.6% to 54.8% of their students attend a 4-year college after graduation.

English teacher Christine Zurkowski taught in public school but believes private school has more to offer its students. “The goal of the private school is to be able to tell other people who are going to pay tuition that we get students into good colleges, so everybody’s working towards that goal,” Zurkowski said.

The statistical variation between HCPS’s and JC’s attendance to college is not a result of SAT scores. According to college guidance counselor Carrie Siemsen, the difference lies in grades, attendance, and class requirements,

“At JC, our students are held to a higher standard. In HCPS, the lowest passing grade is 60 percent. At JC, the lowest passing grade is 70 percent. Those ten percentage points make a difference,” Siemsen said.

“We’re college prep, that’s our mission, that’s why parents pay to send their kids here. It’s the focus of everything from your freshman year to your senior year,” social studies teacher Brian Powell said.

JC students also face expulsion because of failing grades, something that is not threatened at public schools. JC students can only attend the school for four years, unless granted special circumstances. That means that if a student fails multiple classes and has to repeat a grade, it cannot be repeated at JC.

“If you are missing class time, you are not going to get the same out of your education as you were in class. Class time is extremely valuable because there is so much information given. If you miss that you are putting yourself very far behind,” Siemsen said.

HCPS disciplines its students with detentions, phone calls to parents, and probation for tardiness and absences after the first four per quarter. Students, however, cannot be expelled for being absent. They can only be forced to repeat a grade. At JC, students receive a detention on the fourth tardiness of a semester. Students can also receive two demerits – four demerits are required for expulsion – for unexcused absences.

According to the handbook, if students miss more than 10 days per semester or 20 days per year, they have to make up days in the summer before they can get academic credit.

JC also provides a special curriculum. According to Siemsen, JC offers “a curriculum more rigorous than most high schools in the area. JC’s lowest level classes are called “college preparatory” classes.

“Countless graduates come back to JC and tell us we prepared them very well,” Siemsen said.

“I give my students more challenging questions and hold them to a higher standard than I did when I taught in a public school where most of the students were not planning on attending any school after graduation,” math teacher Jean Willan said.

Senior Jimmy Knell sees private schools as having an advantage over public school, having attended Fallston Middle School before coming to JC. “It seems like the teachers are a lot more involved, where public schools seem to just not care about all the students. It just seems like these teachers are more involved in our lives than just our learning. I think John Carroll is actually preparing us for university, where in a public school, they are not too set on getting all of their kids into colleges.”

“It seems that students who come from public school have a harder time adjusting to our curriculum. I think as a school community, we do an excellent job of preparing all of our students, no matter what their background, for college level academics,” Siemsen said.

“I felt that going into private school after being in public school for so long, I was unprepared and behind everyone else,” junior Marina Conits said.

According to social studies teacher Rodney Johnson, who has also taught in public school, “kids always come back and tell us they are prepared for the college experience.”

Emily Clarke is the Print Chief for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.