For most students, registration for next year’s courses has come and gone, as class selection has been wrapped up. With school returning to in-person learning for a whole year, both students and educators are sorting out what’s working and what’s not. Administration seems to have taken an interest in student’s mental health and wellness, with trying to implement class meetings to build a sense of community. However, students seem to still have a difficult time figuring out what will work for them on an individual level.
The perspective of teachers shines with advice and relevance in helping make decisions about what needs to change in our education system as a whole, along with working to understand how students are being affected by both their teaching subject and the environment of school. This connection should be discussed more so that we are able to improve and advance in our public education systems.
“We want to build people up as whole people, not just in literary analysis, but also in terms of knowing who you each are as students and coming into your own voice,” Avery Welkin, an English teacher here at CK said.
“That’s what I love about English, is helping students come into their own voice, and then being able to be who you are and feel supported in the community here at school,” Welkin continued. “As you head into the rest of the world.”
Having school available as a positive environment for students is something teachers are always striving for. Jessie French, a Math teacher here at CK, expressed the effects that COVID-19 had on the students as a community.
“I think that the social aspect of it is critical,” French said. “We saw that with COVID-19 when we were shut down and you guys couldn’t be with each other and we couldn’t be with you. So I think that it all plays a major role. I want school to be a place where people can just have a sense of community and a place to belong and a place to learn things in a safe spot. That’s the goal for me.”
Sarah Fisher, a Social Studies and Government teacher, similarly expressed the importance of diversity in our school community and how that reinforces school being a positive environment for students.
“I also think people need to come together, Fisher said. “We have fewer and fewer places in the world, or in the United States where people are coming together with people that disagree with them or that are different from them. And so schools play a really important role in bringing people together.”
Improvements to what the current school model offers seem to be few and far between. The disconnect isn’t all intentional; the impact of COVID-19 paused many changes that would have possibly improved our current system. Despite these setbacks, we still need to carry out the conversation on how we can update our curriculum and courses. Discussions between teachers, administrators, and students seem to be strained and unproductive.
“I would say one thing that we are always striving to be better at is improving the kinds of books that we have access to,” Welkin stated. “More contemporary authors, for example, a more diverse range of authors, whether more female authors or more authors of color. And just a broader range of literature that we get to use as core texts in our classroom. That’s something we’re always striving to be better at. In addition to more up-to-date and inclusive curricula, there is also the prominent issue of the current public education model as a whole.
“But I also think that the education model has been around for a century or so,” Fisher stated. “And maybe it could be better. I mean, the world has changed. So I think that we should explore something beyond the six-period six courses.”
Bill Wilson, a science teacher, proposed a way to improve the current education system by adopting a few methods similar to the German model of secondary education.
“In eighth grade, you let students split,” Wilson stated. “So students who have no interest in going to college go this way. And they learn a trade. And they not only do they learn a trade, but they have an internship in that trade. And then when they’re done, they are qualified for a job in that trade. This is the way Germany does it. It’s an excellent system. And then the students who want to go to college, they split and take the college prep courses. And if you go up this way, and you don’t like it, you can go that way. If you go out this way, and you don’t like it, you can go home so you can exchange back and forth.”
In comparison to the pathways currently offered by CKHS, the German-like model recommended by Wilson seems to streamline the education to career pipeline and offer students more opportunities and freedom of choice. Here at CK, the school offers four educational pathways for students to follow: General Education, Advanced Placement (AP), Running Start (OC), and Technical Education (Westsound Tech). The obvious difference between Wilson’s model and the current model that CK offers is that CK’s is quite rigid; students have a difficult time switching between the pathways if they choose to.
Students often spend their freshman and sophomore years following the general education curriculum and then choose which individual pathway to follow for their last two years of high school. Choosing which pathway to follow is a very personal decision, which will hopefully also be a very informed decision so students will know if it will benefit them in the long run.
“I want to go to a four-year university and I feel like being in a classroom setting is what’s going to prepare me for lecture halls and you know, sitting down and taking notes in a class,” Klarissa McKenzie, a senior, described her experience with the General Education pathway.
Students in the General Education pathway take classes that are the baseline or standard for their secondary education offered in our community. These are the most common courses taught and taken at CK with every student taking at least a few of these classes during their high school career.
Another pathway students can choose to take which also centralizes their education solely to CK’s facilities is the Advanced Pathway or AP pathway. AP classes are rigorous, college-level courses offered through the high school which, if students choose to take the College Board proctored test in May, can be transferred into college credit at accepting institutions.
“So I think getting that kind of core underlying, like knowledge base from AP is really important and will definitely help me figure out what I want to do in the future because I’ll already kind of have a good understanding,” said Eleanor Hebard, a senior taking the AP pathway.
Eleanor attributes her academic success to the rigor and depth of the curriculum set by the college-level classes; the greater wealth of knowledge taught by AP classes gives students a more in-depth experience with the subjects allowing them to explore the concepts and their interests further than other classes may allow.
Another way students can earn their high school diplomas while gaining career skills and knowledge is through Westsound Tech.
“Honestly, it’s made me feel like it’s made high school a little bit easier, just kind of had what sound to me like the credits for classes,” said Angelo Flores, a senior pursuing the Westsound Tech educational pathway. “I’d probably struggle if I didn’t have it as a backup.”
Westsound offers multiple trade classes for students looking to gain experience and knowledge for careers like nursing, culinary arts, and auto mechanics. These courses take three class periods of time during the normal school day and they function as technical college credits.
Additionally, another method to gain college credits directly from colleges as a high school student is to participate in the Running Start program through CK and Olympic College.
“I feel like going to college has made me realize that there are more important things than high school,” said Nicole Walters, a junior attending Olympic College through CK’s Running Start program. “Not that high school is not important. I just feel like going to Olympic College has made me realize that there are other options for me and that I can be successful in a way that’s not necessarily the best for everybody, but it is for me, and so that’s what I chose to do.”
There are a multitude of options available to students through CK’s educational programs but three of them are run by outside organizations, College Board, Westsound, and Olympic College. CK’s teachers, admin, and support staff do their best to regulate all of the moving parts and intricacies of these programs but students have complained that it is not enough.
Our current educational system leaves students falling through the cracks in the model and is frankly outdated for our modern society. As Mr. Wilson suggested, it is time to update our educational practices and offer options that work for all students, not just the majority.