Opinion: Elective courses replaced for standardized testing


Bonnie Khat, Reporter

Feature photo: Senior Nicholas King takes a test. (Bonnie Khat)

To the average high school student, the basic curriculum may offer it’s usual core classes but the question is raised…what happened to the classes that offered more beyond the state standard? Over the years the Aurora Public Schools District has cut classes in order to put more emphasis on core subjects and standardized testing. After John Barry’s term of superintendent  has come to an end, his changes at each school remain uniform throughout with little or no unique changes.

Barry’s replacement, Rico Munn, has had futile efforts to bring back classes known as home economics, wood and auto shop; the larger issue at hand is whether core classes are more beneficial than classes that are not tested by the state.

The consideration of these classes has been taken into account; but low funding for these classes have forced APS to cut no state tested classes from the curriculum. The supplies needed for these extra curricular classes require constant refurbishing and the teachers that are teaching these classes are also in low demand.

With that said, the domino effect takes the students with them as these elements of learning are taken away. “Without early exposure to shop class many kids are going to lose out on the opportunity to discover whether or not they like making things, and the inclination to pursue a career as a drafter” (Tara Tiger Brown) from her article The Death of Shop Class and the America’s skilled workforce.

Although these classes may be unavailable, the long term effects of their absence fuels the new workforce may want to pursue these sections of work beyond high school.

To the point being made is that how beneficial are classes like home ec and shop to a student after they have graduated high school and are looking to pursue a career based on past experience at that high school.

The last resource of application for those individuals would then go back to the basic knowledge which are being tested by the state standard now; but knowing what these students are skilled at and or what that individual enjoys doing in their spare time may be more helpful to acquire for a career path to success.

By the same hand, Brown also states “What use is x in my life?’ – and we could substitute for x any of the litany of usually detested classes”.

The further gain of standardized testing could help give the students the basics they need to pursue a career of any field in general; but this generalization can only give so much to what background knowledge could be offered from extracurricular classes.

Testing sign on a door in the math department. Standardized testing takes away from other classes like shop and home economics.

Going back, the skills acquired by a student in a class like shop, one can be tested to their advantages and may even inspired to become what may turn into a career.

Moreover the high demand for standardized testing helps give money back to the schools based on high scores, but it seems that the money is not going back towards shop classes or home ec since these classes are not showing up back at APS schools.

The funding is obviously being spent on other opportunities for the students that may be considered more of a priority to the benefit of students; like helping students focus more on subjects that they struggle in or maybe something completely different aside from the educative side of the program.

On the other hand, classes such as Home Economics and Wood Shop incorporate literacy and math skills through craftsmanship.

So why cut these classes even though they are exactly what the students need?

As stated by Grace Chen in Public School Review, “elective courses are not only shown to benefit children and students academically; these courses are proven to help students socially and behaviorally as well”. Detailing is the component that is offered by the class that is not apart of the state standard.

The paradox of whether shop classes should be saved ends when the school runs out of money for these classes.

With that said, the solution from the district wants to incorporate the same learning skills in a different way aside from the removal of these classes for their students.

One might even question whether standardized testing can be incorporated with the craftsmanship of the students instead of putting the pencil to the paper; but because the district is so strict with its data collection of student’s testing performances, information about discontinued classes take away so many elements of learning from the students that can’t quite be replaced.

As the APS district got rid of these specific classes, a sense of a broader environment was taken away from the life of a student that could have attended those classes. This includes a home like atmosphere where students cultivate their learning skills in a comfortable environment that they may not have at home.

The overall importance of testing on core subjects were designed to help students study and practice their comprehension in that said subject; alongside that also brings more funding to those schools. Money then becomes a larger incentive for schools to emphasize core teachings more than classes that aren’t tested and regulated by the state.

It may also be difficult for officials to distribute that same funding equally to each division in need of attending.

Consequently, without the exposure to these classes this will affect the outcome of career paths for the next generation of craftsmen.

In the end, after students have left high school to start their career, the tradesman that gain their guidance from their teachers who were never there now have career paths ever so different than what could have been.