Prairie High School is home to many high achieving, intelligent and ambitious students. The College Community School District provides a plethora of different choices among a wide variety of educational departments. However, for some students, there seems to be an imbalance of opportunities among core subjects. In 2018, Prairie High School has more English-geared students than in previous years. And we are hungry for more classes, more opportunities to learn, more experiences, simply more.
At Prairie, there are two options for advanced English: AP Language and AP Literature; however, in other departments such as Business and Science, there are upwards of ten options. In the English Department, the only electives are Speech and Drama, News Lab, and Journalism–this totals to 5 options for the entirety of the English Department outside of regular English.
The imbalance of opportunities is felt throughout different educational departments, in both students and teachers.
Mrs. Traci Burns believes that the reason there is an imbalance among elective and core subjects is because, “It has just always been that way. We’ve just continued with what we have known, but as this district moves toward individualized learning, we are looking at a greater elective idea.”
Cassie Pasker, a sophomore student interested in pursuing a career in the English field, said, “It is difficult to have so much ambition for English classes and to constantly look for other opportunities at Prairie, but to find that I have very limited options.”
Students and teachers are calling for a change. Mr. Erik Anderson, Prairie’s principal, agrees that there are changes that need to be made in the educational departments and the way the school regards student schedules.
However, the reasoning behind this imbalance are the requirements within the state of Iowa that Prairie has to follow and these can be difficult to work within to create change.
Prairie High School’s principal, Mr. Erik Anderson clarified,“We have to make sure that we are creating enough opportunities to meet graduation requirements. We have to make sure that we are able to support the core courses because we can’t have classes of 35 and 40. Then any elective opportunities we still have, we create.”
Unfortunately, there is a shortage in staff in the English department and the few that Prairie employs, can only cover so much work within the school day. This leads to an imbalance in electives and opportunities outside of core courses. “Sometimes we don’t have an option to create classes due to the number of staff and we have to operate within the constraints of the Iowa Core Curriculum.” Mr. Anderson explained.
The English department is not lacking in opportunities due to an imbalance in apathy, but an imbalance in ability.
Fortunately, changes are being made within the coming years to the English department and other educational departments to open up the strict requirements for graduation and thus allow students at Prairie to enroll in more courses each year.
“What we are working on for the 19-20 school year is implementation of changing English 10 and 11 from a full year to a semester each.” Anderson said. This means, each English teacher will take a more focused approach to the English semester.
For example, Mrs. Sylvester could teach English 10 with a focus on English Literature in History, while Mrs. Bacon-Curry could teach English 11 with a focus on Creative Writing. This way, students have a wide variety of English subjects and their schedules within classes are more open to additional electives with a short semester of English 10 or 11.
“We could have a different focus to allow kids to be able to explore a little bit more, but still connect to the Iowa Core Standards. We want to get to that.” Anderson added.
This new implementation of opening up student schedules to tailor to their personal interests and abilities could intrigue more students to work harder and take pride in their work.
“I think that different forms [of classes] are more interesting to students. They are more excited to learn when they have options and we can gear classes to the student’s strengths.” Mrs. Burns agreed. Additionally, “I also think that having these different forms will give students more background knowledge as to what college and the world will look like.”
Creating a significant change in Prairie’s class options and providing more opportunities to not only students in English, but across all educational departments will bring greater intrigue and pride into student work and will prepare students for their future.