Switching classes difficult for students, advisers

Ability to change courses proves to be difficult for some students

Eleanor Kaplan

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Unlike previous school years, students are having an increasingly difficult time changing levels or sections due to overfilled classes and a reduction in staff.

Every student chooses their desired classes in January and the master schedule of when every course runs is set by March. However, some students change their minds about their selections due to the difficulty of their current level or a shift in interest.

Dyan Marich, math teacher and advisor for seven years, said, “In the past I’ve been able to accommodate those requests for advisees. This year it’s been very difficult.”

Student schedules are made so that there is room for some movement in classes or levels. For example, a level 3 Algebra class would not be originally scheduled to full capacity, which is 28 students.

According to the Board of Education’s meeting on Oct. 15, the number of classes with over 30 students has increased from 0.4 percent in 2015 to 1.6 percent this school year. In the past five school years, not one has had more than one percent of its classes with over 30 students.

This has created scheduling problems for some students, such as senior Molly McGowan. McGowan changed her mind about the following year’s courses during second semester last year–after she sent in her schedule requests.

McGowan wanted to take AP Calculus, but, due to the unavailability and already full classes, she was wait-listed and ended up taking Intro to Calculus and Statistics instead.

McGowan said of the early decisions on next year’s schedules, “I think it would be nice to wait to sign up for classes until a little bit later in the school year. I think a lot of students haven’t figured out what they want to do with their lives yet and change their minds a lot as a result.”

However, according to Assistant Principal Gerry Munley, with 4000 students needing their schedules to work perfectly, time is necessary. To create student’s individual schedules, the school uses the computer program eSchool. In the program, every student’s schedule is run through an algorithm 6,000 to 12,000 times to produce the highest percentage of students who can have their original requests, usually about eighty to eighty-five percent, said Munley.

“A lot of schools, when they do their scheduling, (have) so many sections of honors chemistry at their school. They know how many students that is from the start and you have no choice, you can’t choose another science, you have to be in that one. It’s a lot easier to schedule. We do a lot of our scheduling based on the interest of the student,” said Munley.

When students change their minds about a level or a class, the almost perfect schedules created months ago can prove difficult to change. Because of the difficulty of creating an entirely new section of the course, there may be classes with more students than capacity, or some students are simply unable to join certain classes.

Marich said, “I have another advisee who wanted to change her gym class this year and there were zero options. Literally nothing in her schedule could be changed. None of her other classes could move either.”

Although some students have had trouble getting into the classes they wanted, others are changing classes without problem. Sophomore Alice Guo wanted to transfer to PCB chemistry level 4, and she was able to do so easily.

Over the past decade, students have consistently been requesting to take more classes than before. Munley said, “Not including lunch or advisory, in 2003-4, the average student was taking 6.9 periods per day of a 9 period day. Now we’re at 7.1. It’s a big [increase].”

More classes per student combined with an increase in class sizes has created a difficult situation for those who want to switch classes. Marich said, “There are just fewer teachers teaching classes so there’s more students in each class.”

Increasing class sizes has had a negative impact on student’s learning, said Marich. “If I divide that 40 minutes [of class time] by the number of students I have, that’s less time that I can have per student. Outside of class, the amount [of time] spent grading goes up and the number of student meetings go up. It’s really hard to get to know individual students as well as I’d like because there are just so many of them.”

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