Coasting through is not an option

Published 10:11 pm Thursday, August 18, 2016

By Sherri Story

Just as teachers wonder about their class schedule, I wonder how many parents know their students’ high school schedules.

Have you paid attention to the classes for each block of the day? Have you checked to see whether all seven blocks of your child’s high school schedule are filled with a class that ensures a good academic work-out? Or, does your child have fillers, such as a study hall?

Email newsletter signup

Frequently, study halls become a time for card-games, sleeping, or listening to music through ear buds. Is this the wisest choice for your child who intends to progress beyond high school?

Consider the fact that if your child plans to go to college or technical school, he or she will be sitting next to international students in every class who have not wasted valuable time sitting in study halls. Who is more likely to graduate?

There’s no going back to high school once students graduate. Although parents hear the happy screams of graduating seniors, many don’t think about the later cries of regret from half of them, when they drop out of college because they aren’t adequately prepared.

Although each Suffolk public high school graduation ceremony proudly touts the total amount of accumulated scholarships of its senior class, no one keeps track of the percent of these same students who actually graduate from college or community college.

Surely, college graduation is the goal.

According to a New York Times report (March 11, 2015), only 25 percent of community college students graduate in three years and only 57 percent graduate within 6 years. Less than 40 percent will graduate from college in four years, the poorest graduation rate of the other 18 developed nations, according to the College Planning Partnership of SAT/ACT.

If these statistics don’t grab your attention, then maybe this one from the National Math and Science Initiative will: As of 2013, only 36 percent of all high school students were prepared for college science classes. U.S. News reported in 2015 that it is estimated two thirds of all community college students end up taking remedial classes in math, English, or writing prior to being admitted.

Taking high school classes seriously now, without expecting extra credit to inflate grades, saves money. No doubt about it. 
Since 2000, STEM employment in the United States has gone up by more than 30 percent (U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index.) Currently, among college students who begin as science majors, more than 40 percent change their major the first year. The given reason? “It’s just too darned hard.”

Yet, these are the fields where jobs are open, plentiful and financially rewarding. 
Parents, please make your student take classes that exercise their brains. Yes, I said “make them.”

Don’t let a teenage brain be the lone decider as to what classes to take, any more than an athletic coach would allow a team of teenagers to decide how to train.

The brain works like any muscle. Exercise it, and the neural connections grow stronger and quicker.

Like exercise, it isn’t easy in the beginning, but if education after high school is a realistic goal, then check your child’s schedule and take out the fillers for something that works the brain.

Finally, support their academic coaches — in other words, their classroom teachers — who know your child needs to be academically pushed to become vocationally fit.

When teachers push students to become independent learners, we are training them for college and successful careers. We want them to leave high school, start college and finish with no regrets.

Let the year begin.

Sherri Story is a biology teacher at King’s Fork High School. Email her at