Opinion Editor Liam Knox responds to this article here.
—By William Jiao & Jamie You—
The Board of Education recently introduced several changes to the district’s Option ii program, restricting Option ii courses to one per year and one per subject area, among other restrictions.
There is no doubt that the Option ii program has some flaws, and has been abused over the past couple of years. Many students have used it to “skip” courses they feel are uninteresting or tedious, and some students have used it to pad their resumes without regard for educational value. These problems are often cited as reasons for why restrictions are necessary.
However, because these abuses are not and should not be direct implications of the Option ii system, generalizing restrictions is not the proper way to address them. Option ii was created to allow students the education that suits them. A student interested in math, science, or history is bound by course limits and requirements, but with Option ii can pick and choose which classes they will devote their in-school schedules to.
Option ii is simply that: an option.
Option ii’s accreditation system should not recognize the half-hearted efforts of those who are not truly interested in the subject they are taking, just as analysis of volunteer work should not tally hours but instead consider dedication and leadership action.
There is as much of a peer pressure element to Option ii as there is to any activity, like volunteer work or afterschool clubs, which are also acknowledged by school programs and also frequently abused for resume-padding.
Criticism of Option ii for allowing bandwagon-jumping students to skip courses haphazardly should not be levied at the program that gives them these opportunities to learn, but instead at the gateway that allows them entry—the district final.
But why all the fuss? Why is Option ii so important?
For one, Option ii is a way by which non-A&E students may take high-level math courses in high school. The new Option ii restrictions limit courses like Multivariable Calculus to solely A&E students, removing this opportunity for others.
The decision to take certain classes in high school, once made by high-schoolers themselves, now falls even more on elementary school students to test into the A&E program. The changed Option ii rules increase stress on young children to “get on track” for high school or risk losing opportunities to challenge themselves years later.
For another, the WW-P high school schedule is packed extremely tightly. With a laundry list of prerequisites and little elective wiggle room, it can be hard for a student desiring a multi-faceted education to make room for all the graduation requirements alongside classes they are interested in.
What is wrong with students teaching themselves? If they can do it well enough to learn the material, to the point where the school course’s content is just a review for them, then why should they be subjected to boredom and tedious review when they could be learning something more suited to their knowledge level?
Option ii is so popular because there’s demand for it. WW-P has a population of self-directed learners. If its presence is restricted artificially, something must replace it. One proposed suggestion is the pre-existing course level change program, which apparently lets a student into a higher-level class if he prove he belongs in that that class. The catch is that they don’t get credit for it.
While this seems like a good alternative to Option ii, two problems will arise: either the student is not qualified to move on to the next level, and thus should not be allowed to; or, the student is qualified enough to move on, in which case he should be awarded credit as recognition of his understanding.
In short—Option ii, except with a more dubious approval process.
An alternative to restricting the Option ii program is reform. A common criticism of the program is that it allows students with little in-depth understanding of the material to skip the course entirely. The logical solution would be to reform the pathway by which students pass courses. A requirement, whether tests or assignments or discussions, should be set to ensure those utilizing the Option ii program do so for the right reasons.
The Option ii issue is nuanced and complex—many opinions and accounts must be considered before a final decision is reached. The Board instituted an earlier round of Option ii changes in January 2014, and these changes have remained in effect since then. And with only a single summer’s worth of data and little space for public opinion, there’s no reason to jump the gun and further restrict Option ii.