At many competitive high schools, traditional honors courses are all but disappearing from the curriculum, as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs grow more influential, according to an article in The Washington Post.

Honors courses, according to the article, generally give students a chance to learn at a faster pace than in regular classes, but without necessarily going into the college-level material required in AP and IB classes. Their decline has left a gap for some students. There are some students who are just honor students, said a high school junior at Rockville High in Maryland. They don't have the ability to push themselves into AP. They're too smart to be in regular classes.

Some students and parents believe their schools are strategically cutting back on honors offerings as a way push more students into AP and IB classes, which can boost a school's reputation. For example, Newsweek's annual ranking of the top high schools in America, just published for 2008, is based in part on student participation in college-level courses.

School administrators argue, however, that they are merely trying to simplify their academic tracks and avoid overlapping courses. We thought it was very health to have simply two choices, said Gail Hubbard, supervisor of advanced programs for Prince William County Schools in Virginia.