Choosing the right classes in high school
High school offers new opportunities for your child. In most high schools, students are able to select many of the courses they take. They can also get involved in a host of other activities to support or expand their interests. Minimally, your child will want to plan coursework to ensure high school graduation in four years. Preferably, your child will plan to be "college ready."
The Board of Education sets subject requirements for high school graduation in Oregon. School districts sometimes have additional requirements. The courses required for entrance into college or postsecondary training vary from school to school. More selective colleges have more requirements. Review this chart to see how these general requirements compare.
Your child will most likely work with an advisor or counselor to select classes based upon educational plans and career goals. However, this activity may be done in a classroom. Your child needs you to be involved in the process:
- Get a copy of the high school's program planning guide or curriculum handbook that describes the district's requirements and the school's offerings.
- Find out when registration occurs at the school and how it is done.
- Review the information provided by the school with your child.
- Learn about the special programs and options. Often schools invite parents of incoming freshman to open houses or information sessions.
- Talk to your child about his choices. Discuss how the classes help her work toward her goals.
Being college ready
To have the most options after graduation, completing basic college preparatory courses is often recommended. This is called being "college ready." Being college ready keeps the doors of opportunity open. The coursework may be rigorous, but for most young people, higher expectations lead to higher achievement. General requirements for college preparation include:
- Four years of English. This means taking a language arts class every year. This will also be required for graduation in Oregon for the class of 2009. The class work includes writing, composition, speech, and literature.
- Three or four years of math. Math is essential for success in college and work. Starting with algebra your child will need at least 3 years of math, taking courses such as advanced algebra, trigonometry, or calculus.
- Two to three years of science. Science teaches students to think analytically and apply theories to reality. Laboratory classes let students test what they have learned through hands-on experimentation. Recommended science classes include one year of biology, one year of chemistry or physics, and one year of earth/space science, advanced biology, advanced chemistry, or physics.
- Three years of social studies. Social studies help your child understand local and world events by studying the culture and history that has shaped them. Recommended classes include U.S. history, government, world history, world geography, and economics.
- Two or more years of one foreign language. Foreign language study shows colleges your child is willing to stretch beyond the basics. Many colleges require at least two years of foreign language study, and some prefer more.
- Electives. Electives are classes that are not required for graduation but can help your child explore interests and acquire skills. Classes in art, music, and general career areas (for example, health occupations, computers, and business) are often considered electives. You can help your child choose electives that match his or her goals.
Beyond the basics
To enrich a student's high school academic experience, you and your child might want to explore other options such as:
- Advanced Placement (AP). Many high schools offer college-level advanced placement classes. These classes allow students to get a head start on the type of coursework they will face in college, develop the study habits necessary to tackle rigorous coursework, and demonstrate maturity and readiness for college. In addition, students can receive college level credit for passing the advanced placement exams.
- Career Academies. Many schools offer special programs that organize coursework and other learning opportunities within a framework of a career pathway or interest area. They all offer the opportunity to learn in the context of real life issues. For many students, this provides the connection between their classes and their futures that keeps them motivated and involved.
- Certificate of Advanced Mastery (CAM) Programs. Oregon high schools offer CAM programs to prepare students for college and career opportunities. Students are actively engaged in their own educational planning and are expected to take responsibility for their own learning. They demonstrate academic and career-related knowledge and skills in relevant and meaningful learning experiences.
- Honors Programs. Some schools have honors programs for students that want to demonstrate academic excellence. In some cases, specific courses are designated as honors courses when certain special requirements are met. In others, students can graduate with an honors diploma if they have completed the required courses, participated in service learning and other activities, and achieved specific grades.
- International Baccalaureate (IB). More high schools in Oregon are offering the IB program. This is a challenging course of study that prepares young people for college at select universities worldwide. It is designed for highly motivated high school students. College credit may be awarded for passing IB examinations.
- Online Classes. Distance learning offers the possibility of taking classes that your high school is unable to offer. Oregon Network for Education (ONE) lists providers of online classes at http://www.oregonone.org/k12participants.htm.
- Tech Prep and College Classes. Many local community colleges and universities offer lower division and professional technical classes to high school students. Students get both high school and college credit. You will need to talk with your high school counselor or advisor for specific offerings through your school.
Getting more help
If you need more information, don't hesitate to ask. Your child's school counselor or advisor can help. Your interest and involvement in your child's course planning is one important way to support your child's future.