The Freshman Transition Network

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After visiting a few schools that have freshman transition programs, I discovered that they offer about half the elective choices to their 9th graders than we do.  The mindset is that too many choices are confusing and stressful to parents and students.  Any thoughts on this?

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I think there's another mindset at work in some of these situations: Many teachers prefer not to teach freshmen.  

This goes back to the days when freshmen first came to high schools after junior highs were replaced by middle schools.  Freshmen started coming to the high school, but many high school teacher wished they had stayed in the junior high.  Therefore, when course guides were being made and prerequisites were being created, teachers made the case for excluding freshmen.  "They aren't mature enough and can't handle an elective like Photography, Weight Training, Psychology, or Practical Law..."  

I bet you many of these rules are leftovers from those days.  I wouldn't be surprised if many of these schools, when asked, "Why can't freshmen take these classes?" would have no answer better than "It's the way it's always been."

My thoughts....  this is absolutely ridiculous.  We changed these barriers to freshmen at our school years and years ago, and guess what - freshmen have done just fine.  The world has not come to an end because freshmen take photography.  If anything, being a part of these fun interest-based electives helps make 9th graders feel more a part of their school and increases the likelihood they'll build a positive relationship with a teacher.  Being around upperclassmen also provides them with positive role models.

I say offer freshmen TONS of opportunities and choices.

I believe there are several other factors which could contribute to fewer elective choices. We are a school with 5 "smaller" schools making up the whole. Since few students are cross-teamed, we have more staff teaching core classes; this leaves a smaller pool of teachers available for elective classes.
Our freshman have limited access to electives partly because of the school staffing, partly because we put every ninth grader in an intervention period we call content reading, and mostly because we try to keep our ninth graders within the same section of the building. In our district, we have seven period days and 22 credits for graduation. This means that every student will have at least six elective credits. We have found over the past five years that 9th grade students tend to choose elective classes based on which other students are in them rather than the actual course and tend to lose interest in the actual content and have behavior issues. Obviously, this isn't true of all ninth graders, but this occurs all too often.

I agree, I feel ( for some not all ) too many choices are hard for individuals to handle, whether they be Freshman in high school or adults. If you go to a store where you can only afford to buy one shirt, and you have only two choices it is pretty quick and easy to get a shirt. But if that store has hundreds of shirts to choose from and you can only choose one, you want so hard to make the right selection it could take forever, or you  may even get tired of shopping and leave altogether. More is definitely not always better.

Nice discussion - good to see the variety of thoughts. Thanks, Lori.


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