Published : Thursday, October 4, 2018 | 1:17 PM
After hearing that 100% of the students in Ms. Voong’s AP Calculus class at Blair, for the third year in a row, had passed the annual AP exam, I visited her and her students.
Kieu (“Q”) Voong has been teaching at Blair for twenty years, and she has been teaching Calculus for fifteen years. This past spring, all eleven of her AP Calculus students took the AB exam and passed it. Seven students got 5’s, three received 4’s and 1 earned a 3. 100% of her Calculus class students passed in 2016-17 and 2015-16 also. In 2014-15 and 2013-14 all but one of the students passed each year.
Ms. Voong mentioned the high standards of Blair’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program as having built the capacity in her students to achieve highly. She also mentioned that students at this level have a choice of taking her class or a IB Diploma Year math course taught by a colleague. The students generally are split between the two courses, with those more interested in a career in the humanities taking the IB Diploma Year course, which contains more of a statistics emphasis, and her smaller group of students taking her AP Calculus AB course.
In January, the official IB curriculum will release a new IB Diploma Year math course for juniors, and she and her colleagues are interested to see how well the high-level IB curriculum will cover the AP Calculus concepts. She has seven Math 3 Honors students this year who will benefit from the newer curriculum in 2019-20.
She related that usually Blair has a good large group of Math 1 Honors students (like my daughter Ariel Phelps and her friends this year. Smiley face.) in 8th grade, which could bode well for the future of the IB and AP math courses. Blair’s principal has shown that he is committed to offering these high level math courses even at low class sizes. Last year’s class of eleven students was the largest Calculus class she has had. Usually they are less than ten students, a mix of juniors and seniors. This fall’s class has only four students: 2 seniors, 1 junior and 1 freshman, a class size that any private school would envy!
Ms. Voong’s Calculus students were using TI-84 graphing calculators that she was able to purchase with a Pasadena Educational Foundation (PEF) teacher grant, and her Math 3 Honors students are able to use K’NEX purchased with another PEF teacher grant to build ferris wheels to model trigonometric functions. Here are the students in action:
Her four current Calculus students are a microcosm of Blair’s small school experience—if they have been at Blair for multiple years, they are involved in many activities at the school. Freshman Jonathan Ong, a Viking since 6th grade, plays the flute in Blair’s advanced band, plays water polo for the Vikings and is the ASB secretary of the class of 2022. Patrick Wei is brand new to Blair as a 12th grader. Senior Asa Barton, at Blair since 9th grade, runs track and cross-country for Blair and has participated in Blair’s Students Run LA chapter, finishing two LA marathons. Junior Nattida Neal, at Blair since 6th grade, plays tennis and is the ASB president of the class of 2020.
These students are clearly thriving in Blair’s small environment and achieving at the highest levels. Pasadenans may not be aware of this opportunity for their children. And Blair’s modernized high school campus will be opening in early 2019!
Blair High School, 1135 South Euclid Ave., Pasadena, (626) 396-5820 or visit www.pusd.us/site/Default.aspx?PageID=55.