As the new school year gets underway, Tullahoma High School students have two new Advanced Placement (AP) classes to challenge them academically.

THS Principal Kathy Rose said the school now offers an AP computer science and a music theory class for interested students looking for further challenge in those areas.


AP computer science

According to the THS course catalog for the 2019-2020 school year, AP computer science “introduces students to fundamental topics that include problem solving, design strategies and methodologies, data structure, algorithms, analysis of potential solutions and ethical and social implications of computing.”

The class is taught by THS coding instructor Angela Pendergraff-Patterson and is the first AP class for the veteran computer science teacher.

According to Pendergraff-Patterson, she attended a five-day conference last summer that taught her more about what the class had to offer students and began learning the pedagogy during her weekends throughout the school year.

The conference, she said, energized her to the potential of the class, so she applied to CollegeBoard, the parent company of AP, to be a credited instructor.

So far, Pendergraff-Patterson said the class is going well.

“We’re having a blast,” she said.

Though her class size is small, Pendergraff-Patterson said she is enjoying pushing her students to strive for more academically.

One component of the class will require students to create an app, which will be graded by CollegeBoard along with their AP test.

The difficult part of the class, she said, comes from the writing the students will have to learn.

The apps the students create will have to be “explained in detail,” though they will “only have so many words to do it,” she said.

“They’ll have to learn how to write like a business person, without the fluff,” Pendergraff-Patterson said. “It’s another skill, and it’s a skill they’re going to need.”

Like all AP tests, the students will also have a multiple choice section related to the foundational information they learned throughout the year, but Pendergraff-Patterson said she is ready to teach them everything they’ll need to know to pass the test.


AP music theory

The other advanced option available for students is AP music theory, taught by newly-hired vocal director Gary Wilson.

According to the CollegeBoard website on AP music theory, the class is an “introductory college-level music theory course.”

Music theory is the basic “music literacy” course all music majors and minors take in college, Wilson said.

“A class in music theory at the collegiate level … is designed to help a student learn everything about writing and composing and arranging music,” he said.

While most of his five students are not going to go on to become composers or music arrangers, many of them might become choir directors or band directors. Whatever path they take, this class will be foundational for all his students, he said.

Wilson said the first benefit his students will get out of his class is the college credit they can achieve. If students score high enough on their test, they can elect to forgo music theory in college, which will save them “time and money at the collegiate level.”

The other major benefit comes from that foundational understanding of music theory, he added.

Passing the AP music theory test is a Herculean effort on its own, according to Wilson.

“It’s a very hard test,” he said. “The musicians say it’s the hardest one. I don’t know if the English teachers and the history teachers would agree with me or not, but the musicians think the AP music test is the hardest one.”

Even if students don’t score the elusive 4 or 5 on the test, Wilson said, they will still go into their collegiate theory class with a better understanding of the principles of the subject.

“There’s not going to be a whole lot in their first semester they haven’t already worked on,” he said. “They’ll not see anything in their second semester that they don’t already have a pretty good handle on.”

When it comes to the test, Wilson said it functions like most AP tests. There is a multiple choice component, but there are also more practical applications of students’ knowledge.

“It is everything about writing music on a staff,” he said, including “writing scales, building chords, being able to move from one chord to another … in a way that makes sense and is pleasing to in some way.”

There is also a rhythmic element to the test where students must determine “what kind of notes you want to use to make this sound,” and some sight reading.

Both the AP music theory and AP computer science tests will take place at the end of the school year during the spring semester.

Tullahoma High School also offers AP courses in math, science, psychology, macro- and microeconomics, U.S. history and English. For a full list of the courses offered during the 2019-2020 school year, visit the THS website at

Erin McCullough may be reached at