Falcon Fest unveils new policy that limits schedule changes based on teacher preference alone

September 9, 2019 — by Apurva Chakravarthy and Oliver Ye

Change seeks to align with other nearby schools.

As students arrived at school for the first time in months for Falcon Fest on Aug. 9, many were shocked to learn that they could no longer change their schedules based on teacher or period preference.

Assistant principal Brian Safine attributed the change to “bringing [Saratoga High] in line with the other schools,” mentioning that most schools in the county such as Los Gatos, Lynbrook and Cupertino also employ a policy of only allowing class changes based on class preference rather than by teacher preference as a general rule.

According to registrar Robert Wise, the school got  approximately 1,500 schedule change requests last year, an average of at least one per student. He expects it to be the same number this year.

Principal Greg Louie said another reason for the change in policy was that the system employed in previous years was unfair to some students.

 “It became an issue of equity,” Louie said. “The student who gets their schedule first has a better crack at getting the schedule they want first as compared to the person who gets it later.” 

Louie explained that this unfairness affected all grades, and especially freshmen, who had the last chance to make changes, a situation he called “neither equitable nor fair.” 

With this new system, a student can still request to get a different teacher from the one they had the previous year if they weren’t compatible with that teacher. According to guidance counselor Alinna Satake, the best and most efficient way to change schedules based on preference would be for students to talk to their counselor before summer begins so that they can work it in when making schedules during the summer. She said it’s much harder to make changes once the school year has begun.

In the past, when students requested a change based on teacher preference, counselors would have to carefully change schedules to ensure that each class had approximately 26 students, according to Satake. 

When a students decided to switch classes, problems were created in the system because their entire schedule would often be changed, causing cascading ripple effects in the class size of each of their classes. This time and effort consuming struggle was another reason that the administrative team decided to make the change.

In addition, students often made spontaneous decisions to sign up for and then switch out of certain classes simply because their friends were taking them. This behavior led to the counselors receiving nearly hundreds of schedule change requests last year, many of which flooded in during Falcon Fest. 

Counselors would often not be able to produce results and perfectly balance the classes and master schedule on the spot during Falcon Fest, which meant that the students requesting a change often received a “no.” 

“We want to work to support you guys in ways that are reasonable,” Safine said. “If the first day after two months of being apart we spend the day saying ‘no, sorry, I can’t’, [students] then leave in frustration, and it’s just not a great way to start the school year.”

Predictably, the policy received a backlash from several students. 

“Not giving students the opportunity to change may be detrimental since they might not be able to choose to have teachers who they’ve had before and prefer to have again, and other students might just prefer to be in certain classrooms and environments that are better for them,” said junior Isaac Sun. “Honestly, different teachers teach with different teaching styles, and some teaching styles might match certain students better.”

According to Safine, experiencing different teaching styles and learning to adapt to them is part of high school. 

“I think it’s really important to know over the course of four  years, you’re going to have between 20 and 28 teachers and during those years, you’re going to get used to different personalities, to different classroom management styles, to different grading styles,” Safine said. “There’s a lot we can do to facilitate student choice in their classes, but sometimes in life, we get paired with different personalities.” 

Although students might not have gotten their ideal schedule, Louie said that at the end of the day, the administration’s primary goal is to ensure that each student receives the classes they requested the previous year.

Despite the fact that many decisions were made before Louie officially started his job in early July, he is doing his best to ensure that everything is going well. 

“It’s my job to make their experience as smooth as possible and to make it work,” Louie said.  “It’s something I fundamentally owe to students.”

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