Once upon a time, schools offered a great variety of elective classes. Cooking, sewing, shop classes, band and choral groups, agriculture, horticulture, etc. When I was in middle school in the late 1980s, I remember a list of electives so long that it was alphabetized. 20+ years later, I now teach middle school. We have an enrollment of over 1,400 students. We have 80 teachers. 77 of them are not electives teachers. We have an art teacher, a video production teacher, and a drama teacher. That’s our electives “program.”
What has happened to electives? With standardized test score results such a priority, secondary school students whose scores could use a boost (to boost the school’s API- Academic Performance Index) are enrolled in an extra math or language arts classes–at the expense of electives.
Our school’s woodshop room is now a parent/community center. The industrial technology room is a science classroom. The drafting room is now a history classroom. The list goes on. With the “every child mist be prepared for college” mentality (along with test scores) driving instructional programs, we have seen the demise of electives, especially in communities where vocational skills classes are more likely to be put to use for a careers. Our school has seen students go on to Harvard, Yale, MIT and more, but a majority of our students will not attend college and could benefit greatly from trade skills classes. The Los Angeles Unified School District has a high school droup-out rate close to 50%.
Some schools are modifying bell schedules (adding another period to the day) so that (more…)