Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Do larger schoosl offer more courses?

The June 1, 2005 Feasibility study had a statement on page 7

"students would have a wider selection of course offerings and electives from which to choose."

Is this a true statement? It sounds good, but did they really take the time or effort to quantify this? I became curious when I read the following statement on page 6.

"The attached CHS profile shows the courses currently offered in each department’s divisions and the attached table shows the respondents’ suggestions of courses to add and the status of those courses. Respondents were asked to list courses to add in their department as well as in other departments. "

It sure sounds like they put a list together so I checked it out. On page 8 I find the list, but it only has 45 different courses and not all of these are current. Just how many courses are actually offered? At the Indiana Department of Education I found 120 courses were offered at Carroll in 2005-06 school year.

The bad thing is nothing in the reporst supports the Feasibility's position that larger schools offer more courses. How would one go about calculating just how many additional students are needed to offer another course?

  • The courses to be offered are not core classes since they are already offered and required by the state.
  • Core classes make up what percentage of the student’s total potential courses? If there are six periods in a day and the student goes four years, then the most courses they can take is 6 x 8 semesters = 48 courses of, which 40 courses are basically dictated by the state. This leaves 8 electives.
  • Now if the student takes 7 courses per semester, then they could theoretically take 16 electives
  • If teaches teach 125 to 150 students, then they must have about six class they teach. If enrollment increases by 150 students, then we will need six new teachers, Five to teach core courses and one that available to teach an elective/new course.
Does this mean that for every 150 students, the school could offer an additional course? Keep in mind that the current "46 unique courses" where there is only one class offered would most likely see enrollment increase. As the size of the school increases, the potential students enrolling would most likely choose to take one of the existing courses. In engineering we call this diminishing returns or peeling the onion. Taking this to the next step, going from 1800 students to 2400 students will add 600 students, which means the school might be able to offer four additional courses.

Here are some classes offered:
Advanced Composition
Math Lab - if a student fails a math class, they take this. Why not have them take the class over?
Web Design *
Art and Set Design
Engineering/Problem Solving *
Mass Communications
Water Sports * (Could be embedded in elective PE)
Computer Graphic Design
Internship in Technology
Shakespeare
Concert Choir
Applied Music
Health Career Internship
Aerobics
Body Building
Advanced Chemistry
Calculus BC

* Embedded courses are components of another course offering or could be embedded into current course offerings.

What would have been nice to see in the feasibility study is some thought and supporting information. They surely have data on the course offerings for each year since Carroll opened. How have the number of courses changed? From my look at this, I would say course offereings would increase, but is it worth it? As the number of courses increase so does scheduling problems; core curriculum classes class size increase; and building utilization factors decrease.

What I do know is that the ISTEP tests math, English and reading. Do these extra courses help improve ISTEP test scores? What happens when students are given the choice between a science, math or English class and bodybuilding, water sports or aerobics? How many take the easy way out?

It is nice to be able to offer so many diverse courses, but I wonder if it is the right thing to do. Are we shortchanging their education? Over the past thirty years there has been a trend to increase courses and segregate courses into advance and non advance, is this a good practice? As course offerings increase the data shows the core classes student to teacher ratio increases while the student to teacher ratio for these new courses are much lower. In my opinion new courses are added at the expense of our core curriculum classes.

The purpose of a public K-12 education is to teach them the basics, how to teach themselves and if prepare them for higher education. It is not to duplicate or replaced higher education. There is some reference to offering enginerring as a course. Maybe a first step is to begin every answer by stating the students interpretation of the problem, identifing knowns and unknowns and from there move forward in answering the question.

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