North DeSoto High School
2023 High School Principal of the Year
Making the Most of High School Coursework
The Plan and the Role Players
What an exciting time of year. Schools have wrapped up their fall semester and are ready to “spring” into action for the second. Many people see the spring semester as an ending to the school year. However, for educators, it marks a time when we know preparation for the next year must begin. One of the most important events for high schools across our state this time of year is the discussions we start with students and parents about the coursework for the following year. There are so many options for students in today’s society. For this reason, it is very important for:
- schools to do their best to provide as many different opportunities to prepare students for postsecondary education or the workplace and to communicate these offerings to students and parents,
- parents to engage in intentional conversation with students, counselors, and teachers about these opportunities and
- students to be willing to challenge themselves, set goals, and work to achieve them.
WE ALL have a role in the success of our students now and for their future. WE ALL can have an impact.
The State of Louisiana has different pathways for students that provide choices in their high school coursework and preparation for life after high school. The state also provides many resources for support, like the High School Planning Guidebook. Whether a child chooses to go to college, vocational school, or straight into the workforce or the military, there is much Louisiana has done to build opportunities for students. In fact, there are so many options, it is oftentimes impossible for schools to offer everything. For that reason, schools must understand their student and community’s needs and build programs best suited for their population.
For example, in a larger school with access to industry, there are many opportunities for industry-based certifications such as welding, electrical, medical assistant, business, health and careers, and many others. Many of these certifications prepare students to be employable right out of high school. There are also many opportunities for schools to offer advanced options for student coursework, such as advanced placement courses, dual enrollment, Internships, CLEP, and more. These options give students a step ahead in college and help prepare them to graduate college early or begin a master’s program. This becomes more difficult for our smaller schools in more rural areas. With limited personnel, offering multiple options becomes more of a challenge.
Schools must get creative and learn to think outside the box. While we may have to narrow our focus and have fewer options, as long as those options are the best for your student population, you are doing the best for your students. Schools might also try innovative strategies like partnering schools; have one offer pathways or courses in one content and another school in others. Students can then travel from school to school, and their opportunities could be doubled. Since COVID, schools are much more equipped to offer virtual options as well. This opens other doors for partnering; you do not necessarily have to be “neighboring.”
Once schools are prepared to provide multiple student offerings, they must begin communicating them to students and parents. The struggle here usually is with parents as we have direct access to students daily but not to our parents. We must be intentional with our communication and do so in multiple ways. Most importantly, we must ensure parents know that conversations are beginning to happen around scheduling for next year and provide opportunities to include parents in these conversations.
For our parents out there, we encourage you to be aware and ask questions this time of year about plans for your child’s coursework next year. Your child’s counselor must be one of “your best friends.” Keep open lines of communication with the school and let them know you want to be a part of your child’s education. When schools open their doors for sessions with counselors, open houses, parent-teacher conferences, expos, or other academic events, BE THERE. Know what is going on at your child’s school. While some schools are limited in what they can offer, your role should be to know what those offerings are and what will fit your child’s needs. I also want to remind you that these discussions need to start happening in the spring. Schools build their schedules around the course requests of students, and you want your child’s requests to be what is best for them.
Last, but most importantly, falls the responsibility of the student. It does not matter what the school offers and how many conversations are had around “best fit” coursework if the student is unwilling to challenge themself and work hard. High school is – and should – be a fun time and a time to make memories. However, it is one of the last steps in preparation for life; academics must come first. So, if you are a student reading this, I encourage you to be brave!!
Do not shy away from the “difficult” classes because you do not want high school to “be hard.” Do not limit yourself! Take every opportunity your high school has to offer you a certification, college credit, or another learning opportunity. Be aware and a productive part of your future.
The old adage is, “It takes a village,” which is so true. We must understand our role if we genuinely want what is best for our high school graduates. And remember that while there may not always be a “perfect fit,” there is always a “best fit.” The most important thing to remember is we all have a role and must participate.