Staff Editorial: The chosen path

As we approach the end of the school year, let us take a moment to consider our individual high school experiences. Elementary school education is the foundation that prepares us for everything after it, but how effective is the current program at providing equal knowledge and exposure to students?

As it currently stands, some Blue Valley curriculum diverges into multiple pathways as early as sixth grade. One of the defining differences between elementary and middle school students is that the latter are given the option to enroll in either an on-level or advanced math class. This decision is made in fifth grade, but its major effects do not come into play until students reach high school.

For some subjects, like English and history, the decision between taking honors and on-level courses can differ from year to year, whereas higher-level math and science classes require prerequisites. Because of this, students wishing to switch from on-level to the more advanced courses have to take on extra classes or tutoring to do so. 

If an individual chooses to stay in the on-level math courses, by the time they reach high school, they will be a year behind their peers who are taking the honors alternative. This also places these students into Physical Science instead of Chemistry in their sophomore year, since Algebra II is a necessary prerequisite. Not only does this put these individuals in-step with the grade below them by the time they take Chemistry, it eliminates their option to explore other areas in which they may be interested. For example, if a student were to take Chemistry their junior year, they would likely only take one more science course before graduating. Even if they were interested in taking both a Physics and Zoology course, they would have to choose between which field to study further, as opposed to students in advanced who have multiple opportunities to take these classes.

Furthermore, these students are generally on track to take pre-calculus in their senior year. This means they are not given much – if any – practice in trigonometry before taking the ACT during junior year, despite a portion of the exam’s math section containing these questions, according to ACT Prep teacher Jazmin Walker. It is recommended that lower-level math students enroll in an ACT prep course independently or through school their junior year, but many students do not have the financial status or flexible schedule to allow these options. Several upperclassmen on The Express have expressed dissatisfaction in this method, saying they felt they were at an unfair disadvantage for standardized tests and college applications.

To put it plainly, this system is not fair. Parents and children should not have to make such monumental decisions so early in grade school. Whether they are aware of it or not, these choices can put students at an automatic disadvantage that can go on to affect their long term education and careers. If the difference between taking an on-level or advanced math class can determine what other courses an individual is eligible for, that decision should not be made years before it will truly begin to affect them.

The Blue Valley curriculum needs modification. Course differentiation does not influence individuals’ academic experiences until they reach high school. For that reason, the decision of which path to take should not be made until they are enrolling in those classes. If the system is to remain as it stands now, families require much more information and awareness about how these choices will affect students in the long run. These facts should be given to parents at the very beginning of the process; there needs to be detailed transparency between the district and families, with no question concerning what will be affected in this choice: ACT readiness, course eligibility and college applications can all be impacted. The current method is unacceptable.