Course Recommendations – Making the Best Choice

Posted by Beth Andrada - 29 August, 2019

- Beth Andrada, Upper School Mathematics Teacher and Department Chair

The beginning of school is upon us.  I’ve been in the stores, smelling the fresh notebooks and crayons and markers. So why am I thinking about a process that won’t begin until second semester?  It’s because I want Randolph (and really all) students to be set up for success.

Beth Andrada

Eight months ago, we went through the course recommendation and registration process that is now in effect for this current school year. In just a few short months, we will begin considering where the road continues into the next school year. Here are some thoughts on how to guide students to take courses that are a good fit.

Consider the Foundation

Go with me for a minute… as I explain my skyscraper analogy. When teachers recommend a student take Algebra I in 9th grade, I worry greatly for families who pursue a petition to Geometry. The truth is these students may see some measure of success in Geometry, sometimes performing better in the 9th grade year than in 8th grade. However, in 10th grade, these students will be in Algebra II, and any algebraic or numeric weakness that presented in 8th grade will only magnify with the greater depth and new topics addressed in Algebra II. My best analogy is building a skyscraper with a foundation that is not stable (significant algebraic/numeric struggles in 8th grade). The structure will stand for a few levels (completion of Geometry in 9th grade). When the higher floors begin adding load to that foundation (Algebra II in 10th grade), the structure may collapse. 

Planning is Key

Students should speak with their teachers about their future plans for each discipline, especially if they are interested in Advanced/Honors/AP levels but are enrolled in courses that do not carry that designation.  Parents should encourage students to begin these conversations as early as possible. 

Keep the Dialogue Open

Teachers should take the time to get to know each student and family’s definition of success. Encourage your students to speak with teachers as soon as your family decides taking Honors or AP is an important goal for all of you. When both students and parents read the recommended courses for next year, know they are not static, but they are made with the student’s best interests in mind. If students and teachers do not agree on future placement, both parties need to have lots of conversations until an agreement can be reached.

Focus on Student Success

Teachers want students to be successful in their disciplines! They do not want to see placements that are so challenging that students begin to dislike or fear the subject that, for the teachers, is so loved. Students (and anyone, actually) should be uncomfortable as they learn new things. They should not, however, feel they are working at full speed just to squeak by with a passing grade as they try to keep up with any course. 

The bottom line is we love our students. We love our disciplines. We want the student and the discipline to be a healthy union. 

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Topics: math, Faculty, courses

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