Uncovering the Logic Behind Class Scheduling

Alison Kuznitz ’15
EE Senior Opinions Editor

As course selection season winds down at Trumbull High School, students have been left with mixed feelings about their schedules for next year. While some underclassmen selected their courses in a matter of minutes after perusing the Program of Studies catalog, other students agonized over their decisions. This especially holds true for juniors who were hard-pressed to choose their academics in the midst of such an extensive array of classes.

The discrepancy in the degree of difficulty for devising schedules most likely stems from the large imbalance of courses offered for upperclassmen and underclassmen.

“The upperclassmen have many more options and so little time to actually fit in these courses,” said junior Lahari Kota. “Underclassmen should have the courses available so that they won’t feel overwhelmed by a myriad of courses they can’t fit into their schedule.”

English is a key example of this disproportion. Underclassmen have just three English classes available to them. Yet, once students advance to their senior year, they have a staggering eighteen courses to choose from, ranging from Honors Mythology to Women’s Literature.

“A lot of the classes that run today are classes that at one time were junior and senior electives,” stated English Department Chair Mrs. Spillane. “That changed maybe ten [or] twelve years ago and we went to the full year junior course of American literature.”

According to Mrs. Spillane, these mixed classes negatively impacted juniors. In the spring when graduation neared, seniors were not as committed to their classes and were absent for special events. Additionally, THS had to restructure its curriculum to provide students with the mandated American literature course.

This led to the current arrangement of English classes in which seniors are exposed to the most courses. In total, there are four Writing courses, thirteen Literature courses, and one Viewing/Writing course.

“The thinking behind the elective courses for seniors was that by time students get to a certain point, they benefit from and should have the opportunity to sort of choose a course of study,” commented Mrs. Spillane. “So, after they’ve had two foundational years in ninth and tenth grade of learning skills and practicing with different kinds of writing, then they can start to make choices about what they’re going to study.”

Although English is by far the subject area with the greatest assortment, Social Studies and Science also contribute to this imbalance of courses according to grade level. While some underclassmen may view it as unfair that their schedules are so confining, they need to realize the factors that dictate their schedules.

First of all, there are specific graduation requirements at THS. This includes earning three to four credits per subject, along with obtaining a minimum of 22 credits overall. Students are also expected to pass standardized testing. A significant portion of underclassmen classes is devoted to preparing students for these CAPT or the new SBAC tests.

There are state mandates as well, such as taking three years of physical education. Once upperclassmen have satisfied these regulations, their schedules become less restrictive and more flexible.

“It’s important to have the freedom when you’re a junior or a senior to make those choices as opposed to when you’re a sophomore or a freshman…because there’s a lot more that you’re going to be involved in,” stated C House Guidance Counselor Mr. Broccolo. “And you need to have that ability to move around and figure out what it is you need to do.”

Yet, this freedom might be considered stressful to upperclassmen and lead to indecisiveness. Many seniors are considering doubling up on classes in order to obtain the best academic experience. This means that a senior may be enrolled in two different classes for the same subject area.

Not to mention, students need to evaluate which courses colleges are specifically looking for on transcripts. This issue has launched a debate particularly in senior science electives. Universities generally like to see that a student is enrolled in a Physics class during their senior year. However, other classes are offered that may be more appealing, including Environmental Science, Marine Science, and Anatomy and Physiology.

“I am very overwhelmed with all the options, especially with science,” said junior Emily Sarnecky. “I am taking Honors Anatomy and Physiology, but I know I should probably take physics. There aren’t enough periods in the day to take everything I want.”

Underclassmen are well aware of the fact that their schedules can end up being jam-packed as their high school careers come to a close. Taking this into consideration, they find it frustrating that their academic options are so limited; especially if they are on track in fulfilling graduation requirements.

They have expressed that at least more academic based electives should be incorporated into the Program of Studies book. This would allow underclassmen to maximize on all classes and not be shut out of certain classes later on.

“I know that I’m definitely doing something with either kids, or communications and translating, so there’s no courses at the school that offer that,” commented sophomore Denise Hallstrom.

The addition of more focused electives could be extremely beneficial to underclassmen. Unlike Hallstrom who already has a potential career path, other underclassmen could discover new interests and talents.

“Even for freshmen it would be a good time to start learning about what you want to do,” stated sophomore Mary DiMartino. “And if you take a class here and you realize you have absolutely no interest, it would be an earlier time to realize that, instead of finding out when you’re a senior in high school.”

Unfortunately, it is not possible right now to even consider providing more classes at THS and resolving the imbalance of classes. This reality is due to budgetary cuts and lack of staffing.

For the time being, it appears that the structure of upperclassmen and underclassmen schedules will not be undergoing any dramatic alterations. Conversely, these concerns raised by students are viable and should not be taken lightly. In the future, these issues need to be better addressed in order to accommodate students’ growing needs for a modern-day education.

Regardless of the current complaints surrounding course selection, students should make sure they have selected the courses that will prove to be the most advantageous.

“Balance is the most important thing. You can’t be too academic-based, you can’t be too sports-based…” advised Mr. Broccolo. “When everything’s in balance, you’ll see that your grades will be better, your happiness will be better, you’ll just be in a better place academically, socially, in every way, shape, or form.”

 

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