Where credit is given, credit is due

Jessa Bateman, Opinion Editor

It does not take long to hear the rumors of students placed in the wrong science course. I first heard them in my Honors Biology class and shuddered at the thought. The rumors said that some students wound up retaking Honors Physical Science after taking and passing it as an eighth grader. Misplacement is a fate I do not wish on anybody, particularly after experiencing it myself.

In seventh grade, I was placed in 21st Century Literature, Social Studies 7, and Pre-Algebra rather than Honors Special Projects, Honors Social Studies 7, and Honors Algebra 1-2. I managed to switch into Honors Special Projects and Honors Algebra 1-2, but not Honors Social Studies 7.

I enjoyed Social Studies 7, but spent the whole year wondering what projects I would be doing in an honors level course. I did not learn there was an Honors Social Studies 7 class the same block until the third quarter.

I drove my family crazy as I rehashed the issue. The next year, I double-checked my schedule to make sure I was in an honors class.

Misplacements at the high school level frequently occur in both science and math courses. There are approximately 20 different science pathways at North, some of which depend on mathematical skill level.

“The intent of the high school courses in middle school is to provide advancement to higher levels, not high school credits in middle school,” Dan Sitzman, science curriculum specialist, said.

A logical solution to the misplacement problem is to count high school level courses taken in middle school for high school credit.

The current system provides students with an opportunity to be challenged and to be competitive for scholarships and college applications.

One major flaw with the current system is that it allows for students to get placed into the wrong class. I wholeheartedly believe that students have a right to continually learn material in every subject and to be challenged. Relearning material already mastered or placing students into a class that is too easy for them does not challenge them, let alone broaden their horizons.
Another systematic flaw deals with the emphasis on college preparation.

Not all students go on to attend college or another form of higher education. Thus the purpose of high school is to prepare students for adult life, regardless of whether or not they attend college.

For the students that will attend college, counting courses makes them look better. It shows that they are willing to go above and beyond for their education and take more classes than are required for graduation. It also provides more fodder for grade point average (GPA) calculation, so if they did not do well in one class it will not reflect quite as much on the overall GPA.

Enabling ninth grade level courses taken earlier to officially count for high school credit gives students a chance to take more classes while in high school, better preparing them for adult life. Many students that take advanced courses are involved with the magnet program and take numerous: science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses.

In college, people majoring in the arts and humanities have to take STEM courses in order to graduate. It makes sense for STEM people to have to take artistic and humanities courses, such as an art or music class. Counting the middle school courses for high school credit frees up schedules faster, allowing people to take more humanities-based courses and become well-rounded members of society.

Allison Iles, counselor, suggested that a test system resembling the Advanced Placement (AP) tests would be helpful in properly sorting students into classes. The AP tests enable high school students to earn college credit while in high school, depending on how well they perform on the test. A system like this helps place students in courses at their knowledge level. If this was in place, I could have tested into an honors social studies class rather than spending the year bored in an academic one.

Part of Sitzman’s job is to look through course requests every spring and look for misplaced students. Students still slip through the cracks though. Iles mentioned that some students get misplaced after summer school.

The first two weeks of school are when it is easiest to switch a misplaced student into the correct course, though occasionally their courses contradict, making a class change difficult or impossible. The best way to fix the issue is to communicate with counselors and Sitzman.

The best method of preventing the issue is for teachers, students, and parents to ask questions and ensure that they know what happens with course selection.

“For students who earned a B or C in eighth grade when taking high school physical science, the intent is that the student is in a position to take Honors Physical Science in ninth grade. This is similar to a high school senior taking Calculus AB, then retaking the course in college with the additional background helping make the transition to the next level more successful,” Sitzman said.

The current grading system weighs honors classes as more challenging than academic ones. A B (3) in an honors class is equivalent to an A (4) in an academic class. It makes sense for students who earned an A or a B in Honors Physical Science in eighth grade to be able to take a different course in ninth grade.

Sitzman is unable to work closely with middle school teachers. Approximately six years ago, there was a formal communication network that met two to three times a year. That network is no longer in place. Representatives from North go to middle schools primarily for recruiting, student orientation, and course registration. Counselors have contact with middle schools twice a year, for orientation and course registration.

Counting middle school courses for high school credit frees up schedules faster, allowing students to take more classes while in high school. This gives students more knowledge to utilize as an adult. It would also minimize the amount of misplaced students. Nobody deserves to endure being placed in the wrong class.