Students Taking Advantage of New Course Offerings

Students Taking Advantage of New Course Offerings
Posted on 09/09/2019
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students working at a computer station togetherDuring the 2018-19 school year, district leaders, staff and students worked together to reimagine the high school experience. Teachers and students collaborated during a three-day LakotaNEXT design challenge last November, working to answer the question: How might we design a prototype of a high school master schedule that fosters the core principles of personalized learning? 

The result? New course offerings and expanded zero bell options at both Lakota East and West high schools.

“We have heard the request for more choice during zero bell from parents and students,” said Keith Koehne, Lakota’s executive director of curriculum and instruction. “We are excited that we have been able to do just that this year.”

Previously, choices for zero bell were limited to English and social studies. After group presentations at the design challenge, district leaders evaluated the master schedule and were able to offer zero bell classes based on student demand. While initially offered a zero or seventh bell option, the vast majority of students requested zero bell. “When evaluating course requests, we made the decision to schedule bells zero through six,” said Koehne. “We must be able to justify that each of our decisions is not only good for the students, but also makes sense financially. The small number of late bell requests did not justify the financial investment in offering a seventh bell this year.”

Overall, there has been a 30-percent increase in zero bell enrollment this year. Thirteen classes are being offered at Lakota East and 16 at Lakota West. In addition to English and social studies, students are taking classes such as American sign language, biology and financial literacy and planning.

The feedback from students has been very positive. “The initial response from students is thank you,” said Andrew Wheatley, director of curriculum for grades 7-12. “Kids want more options and we’ve been able to provide it.”

In addition to expanding zero bell, the district is also adding to its course catalog. The Lakota Cyber Academy launched this year, with Cyber I beginning in August, while seniors began Cyber Sprint this summer. Offered at both high schools, 155 students have enrolled for the inaugural year. 

Other new courses are being offered as well. Students at Lakota West are now able to flex their writing skills in journalism. Over at East, computer integrated manufacturing is being offered as a pilot with Butler Tech. There has also been an expansion in computer science, with students at both freshman buildings able to enroll in AP computer science principles. 

While part of the AP track, the class is designed to be a student’s first experience with computer science. Once completed, more classes are available as students advance their knowledge in the subject, with the Lakota Cyber Academy a natural path should they so choose. “We’re also excited to streamline our computer science pathway,” said Wheatley. In the past, students would need to choose to follow either Lakota’s courses or Butler Tech’s. “Now, students are able to choose which class to take, regardless of which school it is offered through.”

Koehne and his team aspired to honor the work done by LakotaNEXT to reimagine the high school experience. "By expanding opportunities during zero bell and future-ready offerings like AP Computer Science, Lakota Cyber Academy and Computer Integrated Manufacturing, we are providing real paths forward for our graduates. We will continue to look for meaningful programs for all of our Lakota learners."