The early window for registering for classes is not the only change for sophomores and juniors. This year, students are no longer required to have a certain grade in a preceding class in order to be accepted into the advanced course.
For example, in previous years, in order to take Biology Honors as a sophomore, a student had to obtain an A average in his or her previous science class and receive a teacher recommendation. With the implementation of a new district policy, if students want to challenge themselves in taking a class such as Biology Honors, they do not have to maintain a certain grade in their ninth grade science class or receive a teacher recommendation.
Director of guidance Betsy Jones said careful consideration by the core-leaders of each subject department has gone into the process of making this decision.
“Curriculum coordinators submitted the courses, and they shared those with the leaders in every building to review them. Dr. [Sally Beth] Lyon, who is the chief academic officer, and Dr. [Jolene] Yoakum, who is the assistant superintendent of secondary schools, and the principals had a series of meetings where they discussed courses and prerequisites, and quite frankly, Mr. Maus and I had gone through our guide ahead of that … trying to figure out, ‘Why do we have them? What do they really mean?'” Jones said. “You know, we want to have an equal opportunity for all kids, and so, as a district, they have removed all grade prerequisites.”
With this equal opportunity comes some disagreement about the decision from students as well as teachers. Senior Jacob Freyermuth has used his time at RBHS to take several upper level and Advanced Placement classes. Freyermuth said this change has a possibility to be negative, but he doesn’t think much will change within these courses.
“Potentially [this] could be harmful if people that aren’t qualified are taking classes that are too hard for them, and they get in over their heads, but I don’t think it’ll be too much of a problem necessarily; I think you’d have to look at it on a case-by-case basis because there are certainly people who are capable of taking upper-level classes, if they apply themselves, that don’t always meet the prerequisites,” Freyermuth said. “And I think also the other thing is, people who are signing up for classes like that are generally pretty motivated regardless of how they have done in the past. So it has the potential to be harmful, but I don’t know how much of a problem it would be.”
Aside from the workload being a possible threat to these students who didn’t meet the previous grade requirement, another worry that comes with this change is the amount of teacher preparation that is going to be required now. Several teachers believe that they may have to put in more time to plan out their classes if all students aren’t as efficient in getting their classwork done.
Spanish teacher Donnie Silver is one of these teachers. However, he is looking optimistically at the removal of grade prerequisites. He said that teachers and students will both have to make a greater effort in order to have a successful class.
“Well, there would probably be more lower students grade-wise, so their preparation would be less or their prior knowledge would be at a lower level than other students that have been in the past, so it may require more time [from teachers] with individual students, than currently, to be able to make sure they succeed,” Silver said. “I think it could, in essence, require more time [in] discussion than it has in the past, but I think that would only occur if there was a large percentage in the class that have that low score. I think when you have that combination, you’re still going to have a mixture of students who can be able to help and support each other as well as the teacher.”
Since this change has already been put into action, teachers and students are doing their best to make the most of the situation. Junior Daniel Shapiro, like Freyermuth, has taken AP classes and said this change may negatively affect the way he is able to learn in these classes.
“I don’t think people who got a bad grade in the original class are even going to want to take the class. But if they do — I personally like it where everybody’s kind of on the same page, [and] everybody’s on the same level,” Shapiro said. “So I’d say probably if that was the case, and people who got low grades in the original classes did take it, I wouldn’t like it. But I’m not sure it’s going to have too big of an impact.”
Overall, the main reason for this change, Jones said, is so all students are offered the same opportunities for classes.
“If a student wants to challenge themselves by taking Biology, they can … because really, what does a grade mean?” Jones said. “I don’t see it changing anything, we’re still going to have high expectations, students will still rise to those high expectations … we want to have equal opportunity for all students. That’s what’s really important.”
By Brittany Cornelison
Additional reporting by Alyssa Sykuta, Daphne Yu and Kaitlyn Marsh
This is part of the Preparing for Battle ongoing special report. For more information on the changes occurring as the district opens a new high school in the fall of 2013, check Bearing News biweekly for a transition update.