SMITHFIELD — Rising ninth graders are learning what to expect from their high school experience.
In the coming weeks, guidance counselors from Johnston County high schools are coming to their feeder middle schools to meet with students and explain the differences between the middle and high school classes.
“Students move from year-long classes in middle school to semester-long courses in high school,” said Tricia Palmer, guidance counselor for Corinth Holders High School. “Students need to realize that the classes they sign up for will move much faster than they are accustomed to.”
In ninth grade many of the classes are chosen from the core class lists with a minimal number of electives. “We look at the classes the students took in middle school and the success they had when helping them choose classes for high school,” Palmer said.
“If a student took geometry in eighth grade and struggled with C’s, we would not assign them to an honors math class in ninth grade; the depth and speed of learning would be overwhelming. We want the students to be successful,”
Palmer explained that the guidance counselors meet with each student individually on an annual basis to assess where the student is in the required curriculum and where he or she wants to be upon graduation. “Meeting with the students is the best part of my job,” Palmer said. “We do everything we can to expose the student to as many different courses and ideas during high school so that they will be able to find a path that interests them in the future whether they attend college or go straight to a career after graduation.”
When registering for their classes, students are asked to select a concentration of study in one of several areas. Concentrations of study are available in the humanities, STEM (science, technology engineering, and math), advanced placement or university level courses, world language, career and technical education, ROTC, the arts or health and physical education.
The goal of the elective concentration area is “to provide the student with more exposure in these areas,” Palmer said. In all, students must elect to take four courses during their high school career in their concentration area.
“It really just means that they take one class in their concentration over the four years of high school,” Palmer said. “I really see the concentration electives as an opportunity for students to say, ‘Yeah, I really like this and want to pursue it after graduation,’ or ‘No, this isn’t for me.’”
Building a GPA
Another aspect of course registration that counselors, students and parents consider is the course level designated for each class. Classes are divided into levels that are associated with weighted quality points. The three levels are standard, honors and advanced placement.
A class that is designated as standard follows state specifications for credits toward a high school diploma. An A in one of those classes earns a student a 4.0 for the class.
A class designated as honors surpasses the North Carolina standards in content, pace and academic rigor. The courses demand more of the students in independence and responsibility. An A in an honors course would earn the student five quality points.
Advanced placement (AP) courses are different from the other two designations in that their level is prescribed by the College Board and is geared toward helping the student pass an AP test which could earn the child college credits. These courses are more rigorous in content and pace. An A in an AP class earns the student six quality points..
“After we [the counselors] go to the middle schools, we then have a night where the students and their parents can come to the high school for a curriculum and club fair,” Palmer said. “The parents are usually interested in learning about the classes that are offered and seeing the school and the students are usually excited to learn about the clubs on our campus.”
More than academics
Palmer said that extracurricular activities and club memberships have become more important over the years as colleges use them as a way to differentiate the students in the college application process.
Palmer encourages students and parents to rely on the Johnston County School’s website for information regarding dates and times of upcoming programs for rising freshman and returning students. Counselors and teachers update the information regularly and many answers to frequently asked questions can be found there.