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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Modified prerequisites policy grants students ‘open access’

More students will have the opportunity to enroll in advanced classes starting this year because the administration has increased the school's open access policy to include foreign language and math classes.

“The prerequisites now [are not] hard and fast rules or roadblocks,” assistant principal Brian Safine said. “They [are] strictly recommendations.”

In previous years, a prerequisites policy forced students to meet requirements in order to proceed into certain higher-level classes in these subjects. The revised “Open Access Policy” no longer includes these distinct guidelines, such as prerequisites or certain grades.

Three of the five academic departments have had open access for several years: science, social studies and English.

For instance, U.S. History AP and English 11 Honors have been available to juniors without any requirements for about a decade.

This March, the administration decided to grant open access to foreign languages and math, making the policy schoolwide. The change in policy, according to Safine, is based mostly on the “belief that students rise to a challenge when they take on a challenge.”

This policy, however, is still limited by grade level restrictions already in place. Sophomores are still required to take English 10 and World History, since they are required courses, but may also take various Advanced Placement classes such as European History AP, Computer Science AP and Statistics AP. They cannot take classes offered only to upperclassmen, like any AP science or English courses.

According to principal Paul Robinson, eventually, the strict prerequisites rule transitioned into the new system, which allows current students more leverage.

“There could be a number of different reasons that a particular student got a certain grade,” Robinson said. “We [did not] want to deny access to someone who might actually have the passion and drive to [succeed].”

The policy now allows the students and their families to make choices, not the administration, Robinson said.

“Not everything is so black and white in learning — there’s a lot of grey area,” he said. “I think there are still some indicators that students want to be able to show before they move on to a class. But [now], it’s ultimately going to be [their] decision.”

Math teacher PJ Yim cautioned against taking advanced courses too early.

“I’ve seen students who move too early too fast, and they don’t really grasp the concepts at all,” Yim said. “They always have had to get a tutor to just barely keep up with everyone else. And my question is: ‘What’s the point of that? Why do you move up to the next level just to struggle?’”

According to Yim, the new policy may result in more students trying to skip ahead due to peer pressure.

“The problem is that we have so many high achievers, that too much of the focus is on the competition and the grades,” Yim said. “It’s not about what’s right for somebody else. It is [about] what’s right for [you].”

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