This article contains various numbers regarding students’ elective choices and assigned courses for the first semester. School administrators shared all information with Palette in an anonymous format.
Walking into the first Community Time at the start of a new year, students were informed that this year would bring the return of an additional extracurricular: electives. For the first semester, students selected between electives including studio art, photography, music, coding, and Moot Beit Din, as well as an study hall option for those who did not want to participate in an elective. After a presentation in which each teacher described the contents of their elective, students completed a form asking for their first, second, and third preferences for their first-semester elective. Yet, underneath the simplicity of this short form lies a behind-the-scenes apparatus for assigning a student’s elective.
Underneath the simplicity of this short form lies a behind-the-scenes apparatus for assigning a student’s elective.
Mr. Joel Rojek, General Studies Instructional Team Leader, who translated students’ elective preferences into their assigned course, described his process in three steps. First, Mr. Rojek explained, “We aimed to give as many students as possible their first preference.” Next, if an elective was full, and not all students who requested an elective could take it, seniority was prioritized. Thus, upperclassmen received their first elective choice before lowerclassmen. Following this, students were either assigned to their second or third elective choice, depending on the remaining availability.
Aside from those who chose studio art, almost all students received their first preference. However, amongst the students who chose studio art as their first choice, only 57% received it. In fact, studio art had the most demand, with 36.8% of high school students choosing it as their first choice, and 75% of students choosing art as at least one of their three preferred electives. Therefore, studio art was the only elective to have a roster consisting of only those who chose it as their first choice.
With many students interested in art, Mr. Rojek found it unrealistic to fit all of them into one room. He explained that this was due to both space limitations and optimizing classroom management: “[Studio art] runs in the Maker Space since we needed to use a space that would allow students to make a mess in the name of artistic expression and to leave works in progress out… It had the smallest initial [cap] at 14 [students].” Since 43% of students who chose studio art as their first choice were unable to take it (largely freshmen and sophomores), Mr. Rojek plans to prioritize freshmen and sophomores for the coming semester, followed by upperclassmen.
Reflecting on the many students who were unable to take studio art this semester, studio art teacher Mrs. Anita Stein remarked, “I think that it is a shame that we had to limit the number of students, and my hope is that the school will, at some point, be able to offer art to everyone. Art gives one the opportunity to express yourself in ways not always welcome in a typical classroom.”
Running close behind studio art, 65.7% of students chose photography as one of their three preferences, and 36.8% of them chose it as their second choice. Fourteen students chose photography as their first preference, and others sought it as their second after studio art was full; therefore, the initial cap of 15 students for photography was adjusted, and the elective moved to a larger room. Unlike studio art, “there was a relatively easy way to increase the size of that class slightly, [so] we were happy to make that adjustment,” Mr. Rojek explained.
Based on their preferences, Mr. Rojek added the remaining students to one of the three other elective classes: music, coding, and Moot Beit Din. Respectively, 11.80%, 14.50%, and 5.30% of students chose these electives as their first preference. Fortunately for these students, they received their first choice due to the smaller demand for those electives. For instance, AE Rosenthal, a freshman passionate about joining the music elective, explained, “I wanted a music elective to enhance my own knowledge of the subject, as well as allowing others to further their learning and interest in music.”
On the other hand, Talia Sarnat, a freshman who chose studio art and photography followed by music, was “disappointed” when she got music because she enjoys “drawing and painting more than music,” and “it wasn’t a choice that [she] was expecting to get.”
Despite the 15% of all students who did not receive their first preference, Mr. Rojek offered students flexibility in switching electives. He remarked, “After being informed of which elective they were registered for via email, some students asked to drop an elective and add another one — if there was room available, I made that adjustment.”
Overall, many students are thrilled to have this opportunity for the coming school year. For example, although sophomore Mikey Wilson received his third choice of coding and cannot take studio art this semester, he expressed that he is glad to have a creative outlet during the day. Mr. Rojek agreed, noting, “I’m very excited that we have such a wide range of elective offerings this school year, and I hope all students get a chance to develop new skills and explore their passions and interests.”