Missing credit plagues students

March 13, 2011 — by Michael Lee

Guidance counselor Christy Cali sits at her desk in the Guidance Office, her eyes fixed on her computer screen, which displays student schedules for the 2011-2012 school year. From Aeries, she checks if all of her students, particularly incoming seniors, have fulfilled their requirements for the upcoming year.

Cali’s alarm bells go off after about 15 minutes of searching. She locks in on her target: Rebecca Chen, a junior who lacks her Applied Arts credit. Cali immediately makes a note to herself to call Chen into her office.

“I plan on taking psychology over the summer at a college because I would have to take seven periods if I didn’t,” Chen said. “[Before], I didn’t really have time to fit it in my schedule.”
Cali and her fellow guidance counselors find many students with these schedule mishaps.

“[A common mistake] is probably leaving the P.E. requirement to the senior year,” Cali said. “Students not paying attention to the Applied Art credit and having too many classes to fill it in is another one.”

Senior Uttara Sivaram fell into the pitfall that Cali describes. Sivaram has taken journalism during her four years at Saratoga High, but did not complete her Visual/Performing Arts credit, as she did not have enough space in her schedule to fit in another elective.

“I tried to make it up the summer after my sophomore year,” Sivaram said. “I went to De Anza and I took an art class. Unfortunately, De Anza runs on a quarter system, and their three credits weren’t equal to 10 high school credits.”

Sivaram is currently taking an extra art class at De Anza to make up for her missing credit. She insists that students should “avoid the hassle” by fulfilling their credit issues early in their high school career.

“As advice to other people, if you’re in journalism, just have seven periods for a year,” Sivaram said. “Try not to resort to the community colleges.”

Cali also emphasized the differences between high school graduation requirements and the prerequisites for colleges.

“The biggest error that I think people make is the difference between what’s eligible for college and what’s needed for graduation,” Cali said. “To graduate, all you need is a D-, but a D- in an
English class is not acceptable for college. Students forget to repeat it during the summer in order to improve their grade, and then they get to their senior year and they’re not qualified.”

Of all of the guidance-related issues she encounters, Cali said that one of the most common occurs when overambitious students bite off more than they can chew during their junior and senior years.

“[Students] don’t estimate the time that they want to put in,” Cali said. “They have good intentions in the spring, but when the fall comes and they get involved in clubs or sports, they’re overwhelmed because they don’t have enough time.”

Students need 220 credits total to graduate from Saratoga High, where a semester of a class is worth five credits. This 220 requirement includes 10 credits (one year) of a Visual/Performing Arts class, five credits of an Applied Arts class (in addition to the five credits granted by the required Health/Driver’s Ed course) and 20 credits (two years) of P.E., Cali recommends summer classes at the community colleges, for those students who are missing the Applied Arts or Visual/Performing Arts credit.

“During the summer after their junior year, I would recommend going De Anza or West Valley and doing a class in the summer and make it up that way if their senior year is booked. Otherwise, we’d put it in the senior year,” Cali said.

Finally, Cali and the other counselors understand that there is no “one-size-fits-all” advice that they can give to all students.

“You have to [choose courses] individually,” Cali said. “Nothing at this point can be done with scheduling as a group, even as a junior group, because every person is different, and every person struggles differently. [My biggest advice is to] talk to your counselor if you have a problem.”

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