Class Scheduling Changes Trample Student Choice


Photo provided by: Porter Huyck

The main guidance office in Building Five, where students must go if they want to modify their assigned class schedules.

Porter Huyck, Staff Reporter

Administration recently announced a change in the registration process for students as they decide which classes to take in the upcoming year. The changes would automatically place students into their core classes based on test scores and prior academic performance in their classes. This change would still allow students to select their own elective classes, but any modification of the core classes automatically assigned to them would require them to go through their guidance counselors. This deeply flawed policy change places unnecessary burdens on students and guidance counselors and denies students one of the few chances they have to exercise agency in their academic careers. 

Recall, for a moment, the beginning of the school year: hot, humid and full of stress about the new year, new classes and scheduling conflicts. The last thing that students and guidance counselors need is more problems with classes. Students who are placed in classes that are too challenging for their schedules, both in and outside of school, will be desperate to change their classes in order to accommodate the rest of their lives. In addition, students that are placed into AP courses often find it difficult, if not impossible, to move down to a less challenging class tier if they feel they need it. Students who want to challenge themselves with more advanced classes that they may not have been automatically placed into will be scrambling to transfer into them before all the openings are filled. It will be a mess, ending with a more stressful start to the year and at least some people in classes they do not want to be in. 

More than the stress of being placed into classes they do not want to take, students lose one of the last remaining opportunities they have for some form of autonomy and independence in their academic paths. One of the joys of getting older and maturing is the ability to make decisions for oneself rather than having everything dictated from on high, as this policy seeks to do. From kindergarten to fifth grade, students are all shepherded through the same classes with no choice. This is acceptable for young students who do not know what they want their future to look like, but as students get older, they should be given greater autonomy. In sixth to eighth grade students have more choice, with greater variation in the classes they can choose to take, but in high school students finally have the kind of academic self-determination befitting of people preparing for adulthood. In high school students were, until this policy, free to specialize their academic pursuits to their personal interests and future aspirations. This policy forces students to follow the dictates of guidance counselors and administrators rather than what they feel is best for them and denies them the dignity of choice.  

I’ll concede that some students may need to be encouraged and guided toward classes that will challenge them and help them grow rather than float through school passively, but that was already happening. It is the job of guidance counselors to help guide students, but they should not force them onto a path that they do not want to be on. Students should not be forced into classes with no choice simply to inflate AP classes and their associated funding or make the school look better to earn more funding from the county, state and federal government. The money that the College Board gives to schools when students register for AP exams is not worth the personal and academic struggle of an unwanted AP class. The dignity and agency of students is above that.