Despite what students may tell their teachers or even themselves, most are in arts or technology classes just for the graduation requirement. Both departments have ways of combating this issue.
The technology department has a new mainstream entry-level class, Foundations of Computer Science. Replacing Foundations of Technology with this class was an effort to retain students.
Junior David Zelivinski illustrates a common case. He took a basic-level technology class and recalls learning some java skills, but, “nothing that I still remember.”
Bethany Petr, the resource teacher for the department, said, “One of the reasons we switched the class from [Foundations of Technology] to this new class is that this new class has a little tiny bit of a lot of different topics that our other courses have.”
The hope is that students will be interested in one sub-topic such as web development or programming and pursue advanced courses in those fields. Last year, about 10 percent of students were retained.
Although retention is low, Petr still values the graduation requirement due to the problem solving skills gained and the lack of previous exposure students have coming in to high school. When entering freshman year, “Maybe that you don’t know you’re gonna really love this,” Petr said.
The arts department makes an effort to retain students through a class with a similar concept to Foundations of Computer Science as well as personalized course recommendations. The Foundations of Art class is one in which “you get to dabble in a little bit of everything,” according to the arts resource teacher Stephanie Labbe.
However, arts differs in that Foundations of Art is not necessarily the obvious choice for achieving the credit for graduation. Other entry-level classes such as ceramics and photography are also options. “In my Digital Photography class, a beginner level class, there are currently about 70 students,” Labbe said.
Sophomore Julia Singh is one such student. She said that she “wanted to learn how to do photography because [her] parents have good cameras at home” and she wants to learn how to use them effectively. Singh was unsure if she would have taken the class if not for the requirement. “I do want to do it, but there are other things I want to do to improve my application for college,” she said.