A high school program of study is made up of courses required to earn Graduation and electives. Together the successful completion of these must add up to a minimum number of credits.
Course prerequisites are a normal and necessary part of a high school program. The goal in having them is to ensure the likelihood of success in student learning. Care needs to be taken in appropriately deciding what prerequisites are necessary.
In establishing prerequisites the school keeps in mind the primary importance of including consideration of the student’s and parents’ preferences as well as the school’s goal of trying to insure the probability of the student’s being successful.
Course prerequisites are listed in the H.S. Course Program booklet applicable to the current year. This is in print and on the web. Changes, when made, apply to the following school year.
Some course prerequisites are naturally part of the requirements to be completed (e.g. 7th grade before 8th, English 1 before English 2, etc.) while others are specified stipulations of accomplishment that need to be fulfilled prior to entering a specific course (e.g. Chemistry before A.P. Biology; Advanced Math before A. P. Calculus; a B bracket or better grade in a previous ‘stepping stone’ course; etc.)
Course prerequisites are absolute (this must have been taken) unless a specific exemption is given by the course teacher and/or the Principal.
Departments may suggest recommended prior accomplishments for entry into a course, to be written in the program booklet, in order to give students and parents direction in the wise choosing of courses.
Many Core/Basic classes require successful completion (earning a passing grade) of the previous level class since many of these courses build academically upon the previous level class (e.g. English 1, 2, 3, & 4 pattern; Spanish 1, 2, &3 pattern; Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, Advanced Math pattern; etc.) …. A number of electives do not require previous course completion …. A number of courses have the expectation that the course will be taken at a specific grade level (e.g. Biology & World History in 9th, Algebra 1 in 8th or 9th, Government in 12th, PE: Fitness & Lifetime Sports in 9th or 10th, Bible: I Corinthians in 9th, etc.)
The selection of a course of study by a student needs to involve a number of stake-holders (student, parent, counselor, teachers, administration) and is obviously done with the goal of meeting or exceeding graduation requirements while, as much as possible, following the student’s interests and goals (e.g. enjoys music, wants to get into an Ivy League college, wants to become a business woman or doctor, etc.) The student and his/her parent(s), guided by the counseling department and the school’s requirements, do the initial selecting. In enrolling in A.P. courses and/or when there may be a question of suitability in other courses, classroom teachers help in the decision making.
The establishment of and any change in stipulating prerequisites needs to be the result of the effort of a combination of individuals. The result of such dialogue is almost always a result of creative tension due to a variety of opinions/experiences and specific course knowledge.
The teachers of a course and the department representative have the best knowledge of the curricular requirements needed for success in that course. They need to dialogue and make recommendations for prerequisites. Suggestions from others need to go to them for evaluation and recommendation. The Chief Counselor and his staff work closely with the individual student’s course of study and pattern of academic achievement. They work with the practical schedule and recognize the cause-and-effect forces at work so that they are able to gauge the probable results of specific decisions. Because of their responsibility to advise both the student and parent, there is a need for their input regarding any recommendations.
The Director of Learning may need to be involved in evaluating some recommendations since the adopted course of study, which may include prerequisites, is a result of system-wide Curriculum Task Forces. However, care must be taken since necessary change may take place more often than just during the curriculum evaluation cycle.
The Principal has ultimate responsibility for the campus and its activities/demands/accomplishments within the policies and procedures of the school. He is also expected to be knowledgeable about the ‘big picture’ which include the goals of the school and the welfare of students. He is an integral part of this process since one of his primary responsibilities is to oversee and improve the delivery of curriculum in order to have better student learning. He is also responsible for curricular load exceptions. Approval of prerequisites or other course recommendations is made at this level – normally in line with the considered opinions. Appeals from his decision can be made to the Superintendent by the student, parent, or any other staff member (teacher, administrator, boarding parent, etc).
Procedurally, any recommendation for instituting or changing in regard to a prerequisite is to go first to the teacher and department representative. Their result is given to the Campus Principal who circulates it to all the other ‘players’ and solicits timely input. These solicited suggestions/opinions are then returned to the Campus Principal for further evaluation. After he makes a decision, the Campus Principal is responsible to incorporate any changes into the Course Description Handbook on the web.