Schedule trouble: How to get the course you need

by Jeff Camp | August 29, 2021 | 0 Comments
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The best-kept secret of California’s public high school system

Of all the challenges California’s high school students face right now, one is painfully familiar: course scheduling. Faculty leaders feel the pain, too. Every year, students and their advisors wrestle with the problem of how to fit everything in. There are a fixed number of class periods in a day, a limited number of teachers at the school who are prepared to teach any given subject, and only so many seats available.

School scheduling is a challenging Tetris-like exercise in tradeoffs and luck. Some courses are only available at times that conflict with other subjects. Some important courses, overenrolled, turn students away. Still others aren’t offered at all, especially in smaller high schools.

These scheduling problems harm students. Less than a third of California students enroll in a four-year college after high school, and course availability is a heartbreaking part of the reason why.

California has a strong system of public four-year colleges, but to apply for admission to them students must earn an adequate grade in college-preparatory courses in seven categories (the “a to g requirements”). Schedule problems can spell the difference between attending a college in the UC or CSU system after high school or starting in the two-year community college system.

For ambitious students, schedule limitations can have a lasting impact on their chances of getting into selective colleges. Students demonstrate their academic readiness for college by taking the advanced courses available to them. Students from big, well-funded high schools tend to have easy access to Advanced Placement (AP) courses that aren’t offered at smaller schools. It's not fair, but course access matters.

Every public school student can obtain free access to every college-prep course

In an age of online classes, part of the solution to this problem is obvious: make every important course available virtually. The University of California has offered this solution for years through UC Scout. To help public school students from all parts of the state become eligible for UC admission, it offers high school courses aligned with all of the a-g requirements. Of UC Scout's 65 a-g courses, 26 are College Board approved.

Unfortunately few counselors, teachers and students have heard of it.

In practice, Scout works best (and has the largest impact) when schools embrace it as an extension of their course offering. Students identify a person at their school (usually a teacher) who will serve as their coordinator. This enables the student's work to lead to a final grade on their transcript.

To help students find out about UC Scout, the Ed100 Academy team asked Priscilla Marino, Outreach Coordinator for UC Scout, to explain the program at the 2021 Academy for Student Leaders. In the post-event survey, students marked her presentation among the most useful sessions of the conference. Here are her slides. Watch her whole presentation below — it’s 12 minutes at 1x speed. The UC Scout site explains how it all works, and has a helpful FAQ page with additional detail.

About the Ed100 Student Academy

This post is part of a series for the Ed100 blog about the Ed100 Academy for Student Leaders. If you have signed up at Ed100.org, the weekly email you receive from us is the easiest way to keep up with our posts. Learn more about the Academy and watch the other presentations by browsing our blog archive.

Next summer’s Ed100 Academy for Student Leaders will be held online June 20-22, 2022. Please hold the date and mark your school calendar to ensure that counselors know about it!

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