Reflecting on electives

As students begin to solidify their classes for the following school year, the high school course guide can seem ever more daunting. In addition to having over 80 elective choices, Barrington High School also boasts being one of the 252 districts in the nation to be on the College Board’s AP District Honor Roll. Being on the College Board’s AP honor roll means the school district has increased the accessibility of AP classes and the percentage of students receiving a 3 or higher on their exams. Barrington High School is certainly no exception as it offers 34 AP courses. Although it is less known among the student body, Barrington High School is partnered with Harper College to provide dual credit classes where students can take off-campus classes such as automotives, electronics, cosmetology, forensics and intro to criminal justice.

The Effectiveness of Electives

     Despite the plethora of options, have electives been instrumental in helping students establish career aspiration?
     In a poll conducted by The RoundUp, 61% of students agreed that their electives helped them develop future career aspirations. Junior Megan Barrameda echoes a similar sentiment. Taking sociology and intro to healthcare and medical terminology (a newly added elective), has helped her solidify her goal at becoming a nurse. 

     “I have taken sociology and intro to health care in the past, and I did not drastically change [career aspirations] more so it helped guide me to choose what I really wanted to do, and with intro to health care I finally realized I really wanted to go into nursing,” Barrameda said.  “Sociology also kind of helped me in a way because I want to work more with people and potentially become a mental health care specialist. And with sociology, I could understand how to treat patients better based on what I understand to be their background because not everyone has the same background as I do.”
     Megan is not the only student to appreciate these electives, as data from the same poll shows medical courses as one of the highest categories of electives taken by students. This can be attributed to the teachers of the course as Megan adds, “My intro to healthcare and medical terminology teacher is Mrs. Allen, and she is a nurse herself, so it really provides me an opportunity to ask her about what nursing is really like and have more resources.”
     Even though a majority of the students polled agreed that electives were beneficial in fostering possible careers, over a third disagreed. The lack of accessibility for some of the electives, in particular the courses offered in conjunction with Harper College, can steer some students from taking the classes. Some of the courses require students to provide their own transportation, which can cause students to miss multiple periods. Beata Von Huene, 11, adds, “For some classes, we have to take them at a whole other school, Harper, and I wish that it was here because I don’t want it to take up three of my class periods.” When asked why students disagreed with the helpfulness of elective in cultivating future plans, an overwhelming amount listed accessibility of the Harper electives, and the difficulty to fit them in their schedules. 

     As put by Barrameda, “I think that we do have a lot of electives that everyone can take. It’s just a matter of referring students to those classes, or encouraging them to take them because a lot of people have opens when they can be taking some fun electives like ceramics or PLTW which can help them prepare for the future.”

What Needs to be Done

     Although there was a clear divide between those who agreed and disagreed, interestingly enough both parties agree that there are not enough electives offered at the school.
     64.5% polled that they supported new electives to be added, and some commonly wanted classes were, Japanese, Hindi, classes geared towards just writing, speech and debate, and computer science classes that teach other languages outside of java. 

     In an interview with Ava Seberg, 11, she concluded, “I know a lot of people personally that writing poetry is something that they’re really passionate about and I think that would be a good class option to have.”
     However, it is often overlooked that multiple electives listed in BHS’s course guide never even become a class due to class scheduling. This is not necessarily attributed to a lack of interest in the subject, but the superfluous number of electives can make it impossible for scheduling to work out, making it misleading to students. Lou Marsden, 11, comments on the issue of scheduling. 

     “There was a music course called Blues and Beyond that I signed up for freshman year but I couldn’t take it because the course didn’t exist anymore, even though it was still on the course guide,” Marsden said.
     Seberg adds, “I do think that we do have a lot of electives although I do think that something that bothers me is we almost have really just excessive electives at the same time. And by that I mean [in] the course guide there’s so many electives that they have on there that are not even talked about, then why even put that on there.”

The Takeaway

     BHS has taken steps in the right direction in the last couple of years to add meaningful classes.

      “..I think that healthcare is such a big popular career that a lot of people want to go and I just think that that was a really awesome thing that they opened up,” Seberg said. “Not to mention as well as their PLTW classes I think are also really good for it because engineering is another really big career.” 

     However, as shown through student opinion, it is clear that electives featured in the course guide need to be more accessible and better reflect students’ interests.