Priorities for High School: Focus on the Core

by Douglas Groff

A diverse high school program is a common dream for administrators, says Doug. He counsels schools, however, to be careful not to overreach staff capacities. Instead, schools can best serve students by focusing on providing a solid core curriculum and adding electives as staff specialization allows.

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Choose electives based on staff ability.

Being able to offer diverse classes in high school is always a dream. It’s always something that is right there on the edge of what we really like to do. Reality is that a lot of that, I think, is going to be based on the skills and the abilities that your teachers have, that the staff has.

It’s great when there is a staff member who has a particular gifting in an area that they can develop or adapt to an additional course or class that is outside your core. At the same time, I think the flip side of that is you don’t want to stretch yourself too thin. Often we’re served better by cutting out some of the things that we are not doing well and focusing on what we do do well. And you know what? With the changing of staff, maybe sometimes from year to year, and someone who comes in who does have a unique ability or gifting in a certain area, you can kind of adapt to that. You don’t want to plan a diverse program and then try to grab a staff member and just kind of throw them into that slot just to meet that need. It may not quite accomplish what we wanted it to accomplish, and you certainly don’t want to wear the teacher out and burn them out or make them feel like they are stretched out too much.

Consider individualized courses, but make sure you can support the student.

We have offered some of the individualized courses for that. At the same time, some of those courses are very hands-on with some of their material, and if we don’t have someone gifted in that area to oversee that, maybe that’s one of the things that kind of needs cut out or not offered that year, because the student is not going to probably gain what they should be gaining, or could be gaining out of that. If it’s not something we’re doing well, my mindset is let’s just set it aside and focus on what we are doing well.

Add not-for-credit learning experiences.

Something we’ve done occasionally: Just offered something over a lunch period of one day a week, for students just to engage in something different. It wasn’t for any credit or anything like that, it was just something more fun. It’s not something we do every year or have, necessarily, planned every year. There was an art class, there was a photography class, that was a very popular one. Then we had an introduction to Mandarin, or Chinese, just kind of some very basic conversational stuff we did. We broke it up by quarters and offered some different things. I think we even had, for the guys (I think maybe the ladies did it later, I forget) we had like a fitness workout. Some techniques, some things, just some fitness things to do for the guys and spend some time over your lunch period learning about some of that stuff. That was fun, that was well received.

Keep the core strong.

The scope and sequence of what we have, the core is very good and so the staff that we have to meet that actually does very well. So as we’ve worked our way through this year and been planning for next year a little bit, so that’s kind of what we’re sticking to at this point. I want to make sure that goes well from an administrator’s perspective. I want to make sure that is going well before we start looking into some extras.

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CONTRIBUTOR: Douglas Groff

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