An inside look: DBHS & WHS

October 17, 2017

As the Walnut High School football team ran down the clock, Diamond Bar High School’s six year hold on the Branding Iron title ended. However, while the football rivalry  has been settled for this year, the question of academics remains an ongoing debate.

Although both schools are regularly featured among the top high schools in the state, differences in the two school’s systems lead to several contrasting statistics in various areas of academic achievement.

A prominent difference between the Walnut Valley Unified schools can be seen in the arrangement of their schedules. While DBHS runs on a daily 0-6 period schedule, WHS opts for block scheduling.

WHS students follow a partial block scheduling system in which they attend longer classes for three days a week, and then more typical six-period days twice a week. Also unlike DBHS students, WHS students have a 40-minute tutorial period on block schedule days during which they can make up tests, ask teachers for help, do homework or study for their classes.

“I like our normal schedule more,” DBHS senior Kenneth Kwon said. “We had block schedule in middle school [and] honestly even though you have an extra day to do your homework no one takes advantage of it and [students] procrastinate even longer. And I can barely focus one hour let alone an hour thirty.”

However, students at WHS disagree.

“I appreciate the schedule a lot,” Jake Burrola said. “Without it I’d be so screwed, especially since I’m in band and other out-of-school activities. I get so much done and when I don’t have any homework, I get to just take a brain break.”

In addition, WHS schedules laboratory portions of its AP science classes separately. There are four types of labs: morning, afternoon, evening and extended. All first period science classes have morning lab, from 7:15 a.m. to 7:50 a.m. Second period biology and chemistry and third period chemistry classes have afternoon lab, from 4 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. One teacher’s second period chemistry classes and third period biology have evening lab from 6 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. All sixth period classes have extended lab from 2:45 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. At DBHS lab experiments are performed during class.

WHS’s slightly smaller ratio of students to teachers may allow each student more personalized instruction time in the classroom. For every 24 students at WHS approximately one teacher is available to instruct them, compared to a 27 to 1 ratio at DBHS.

However, many students feel that the class sizes produced by the student to teacher ratio at DBHS does not inhibit their learning as much as other aspects of the classroom experience. 3,050 students attend DBHS, while 2,754 students attend WHS.

“I feel like the teacher just lectures for [more than] 45 minutes and then usually answers questions at the very end so I feel like there isn’t even a connection between students and teachers so class size wouldn’t really matter,” DBHS junior Kelly Chan said.

Both schools are ranked among the nation’s top high schools with regards to their College Readiness Index, which is based on each school’s ability to prepare students for higher education. DBHS displays a CRI of 65.0, which is 10.8 higher than that of WHS.

Last year, DBHS was awarded a gold medal as one of the 500 high schools with the top CRI scores. Meanwhile, the Mustangs were awarded a silver medal, which was given to 2,109 high schools that ranked between No. 501 to No. 2,609.

The rankings are largely based on each school’s pass rate on AP exams. Although the same percentage of students at Diamond Bar and Walnut pass their AP tests, a larger portion of DBHS students choose to take them, ultimately resulting in a larger percentage of Brahmas as a whole passing these exams.

A large divide can be seen between the state rankings of DBHS by the U.S. News Report, listed as No. 43 in California, and WHS, placed at No. 95. However, while the state rankings are based on a variety of factors such as state assessments, performance of disadvantaged students, graduation rate and AP test participation and achievement, they do not depict the student population’s overall success in other fields.

Brahmas do not always do as well as Mustangs on other standardized tests. On the 2017 Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, 69 percent of DBHS students met the state standard in both Mathematics and English, while 85 and 79 percent of WHS students met the state standard in Mathematics and English, respectively.

This year, DBHS had more National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists, with 10 Brahma seniors earning the distinction. WHS had four.

Scores for the DBHS class of 2018 displayed improvement in both categories compared to the previous year, with scores going up to 75 and 79 percent for Mathematics and English, respectively. On the other hand, WHS saw improvement in English as its scores went up to 80 percent, although its Mathematics scores suffered a major dip, dropping to 69 percent.

WHS offers 22 AP classes, similar to DBHS’ 21, with AP Human Geography being the only AP class offered at WHS without a counterpart at DBHS.

In addition, WHS offers a range of classes that the Brahmas do not get to pursue, including but not limited to German, creative writing, American sign language, web design and business law. The Mustangs also have the option of choosing honors courses for physics and U.S. history instead of only regular or AP.

WHS also offers a biomedical program in collaboration with Project Lead the Way, a national nonprofit organization. Students can enter the program starting their sophomore year with Biomedical Sciences, then moving on to Human Body Systems their junior year and finish with either Medical Interventions or Biomedical Innovation for their senior year. Focusing on hands-on projects, the program allows students to learn a variety of skills through real life experiences.

Meanwhile, DBHS offers the four year program of Brahma Tech, which centers on STEM fields and therefore focuses on teaching students to apply science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills to the real world, exemplified by a mandatory internship in each student’s summer before senior year.

Although the general student population of WHS and DBHS has different levels of success in academics and standardized testing, both schools have a similar amount of graduating students who are headed to prestigious colleges. Last year, both WHS and DBHS saw 11 graduates heading to either Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Ivy League schools.

Additionally, WHS produced 14 valedictorians in last year’s graduating class while DBHS had 26.

Contrasting bell schedules as well as the varying programs offered at each school display distinct differences between the Mustangs and the Brahmas. But, unlike the Branding Iron football game, there are no winners or losers, just sister schools quietly competing in the classroom.

“I know that both schools are striving to do the best that they can for their kids, and students are striving to do the best that they can for their school,” DBHS principal Reuben Jones said. “We want to be the best, and I know Walnut wants to be the best, and that’s what makes it a real healthy and positive rivalry.”

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