Staff Editorial: More Than Just a Number

Competition in schools has been the source of controversy and anxiety for many high school students. January is the time when students select their courses for the following year, and the speculation of who is taking which classes is something that every student is curious about because everyone wants to ensure that they take the right number of advanced and AP classes. However, the motives behind taking these rigorous courses are far more than competition. Students carefully choose their courses by the rigor, the weight of the class, and how it will look on their transcripts.

Up until now, established course pathways were the most prominent way in which classes were chosen. Advanced math students took Algebra 1 Advanced in eighth grade, Geometry 9 Advanced in ninth grade, Algebra 2 Advanced in tenth grade, Precalculus 11 Advanced in eleventh grade, and either AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, or AP Statistics in their senior year. On the other hand, a non-advanced math student’s pathway was Math 8, Algebra 1 in ninth grade, Geometry in tenth grade, Algebra 2 in eleventh grade, and Precalculus or Discrete Math senior year. This has posed a serious roadblock for students who did not take advanced courses from the start because each course is a prerequisite for the next one, so a non-advanced pathway student would not be able to take any AP math course senior year.

“The tracking system allows students to take their own future in their hands...”

The district is attempting to find a solution to this issue, and this involves the eventual elimination of the class pathways all together. Starting with math, this is a great relief for students not on the advanced pathway in that they now have more freedom in choosing their courses without a teacher’s recommendation. If non-advanced students find their path too easy, they can make the decision to move back to the advanced pathway. However, students have to make up the material from the courses they have not taken yet. The advanced pathway is essentially taking courses a year ahead, so if a non-advanced student decides to switch into advanced, they need to take the course they missed over the summer, or take it in conjunction with the next year’s course. For example, if a student in Math 8 was interested in advanced courses, they would be required to take Algebra 1 over the summer or in the next year while taking Geometry at the same time.

The course pathways allow students to take their own future in their hands by choosing to go the advanced route, but one thing many may be concerned about is that there will no longer be any additional weight on these classes. Current students in NHP Memorial have expressed that weights and ranks motivate them to study harder and stay focused on school since it positively impacts their GPA. Additionally, people want to stay conscientious of their average and academic standing because they know that some elite universities only accept students at the top of a high school class. Although ranks should not be the only motivation for students to work hard, their elimination can pose a problem when the time comes to apply to colleges, as they want to know where their applicants fall among their peers.

Source by Olivia Wong

Many students constantly check their grades and test scores, which can add unnecessary stress.

Currently, the school is planning on not releasing class ranks in upcoming years. Although issues addressed previously are on students’ minds, there are also many benefits to keeping this information from them. Eliminating ranking can ease the tension of competition for upcoming grades and prevent toxicity from forming between classmates. Many believe ranks ostracize those who do not perform as well in school because they only benefit the top of the class. When ranking was debated among seniors this past fall, non-advanced pathway students claimed that they did not want to know their ranks because it felt like their high school career would be reduced to a number. In addition, the lack of ranks encourages students to have passion for what they are learning and prevents them from putting so much emphasis on one score on a test.

In the end, course pathways and weights were beneficial in motivating high schoolers to work hard and obtain their goals. However, the times are changing with the notion that students are more than just an average, and the district is taking action by shifting the focus away from numbers and towards education for the sake of learning.