New curriculum changes for entering high school freshmen
  

By Rozella Hardin

STAR STAFF
rhardin@starhq.com

   Due to recent curriculum changes made by the Tennessee Department of Education, incoming high school freshmen for the academic year 2003-2004 are now required to meet with a high school counselor and plan their educational path for the next four years, plus two years of post-secondary education.
   "It is true that most eighth-graders do not know what they want to do in life, but the six-year plan is like a road map. It's a good starting point and it's designed to get them thinking about the future and the course of studies they want to pursue," said Ann Taylor, Unaka High School guidance counselor.
   Unaka High School has scheduled freshmen orientation for Tuesday, March 25, at 6:30 p.m. in the school gymnasium. All eighth graders who plan to attend Unaka High next year are requested to attend along with their parents and guardians.
   Freshmen orientation at Hampton High School has been set for April 3 at 6 p.m. in the VanHuss-White Gymnasium. JoAnna Orr, Hampton counselor, said any eighth grader who will be entering Hampton High School in August should attend the meeting to learn valuable information regarding what will be required to earn a diploma.
   At all high schools in the county, parents of eighth graders will be asked to schedule an appointment to meet with the counselor to establish a plan for graduation and to review details about their child's future.
   At Hampton, parents should anticipate a letter with details about scheduling to be sent home with eighth grade students at Hampton Elementary and Little Milligan Elementary.
   Parents of incoming Unaka High freshmen are asked to call the school and schedule a conference before April 30.
   Both Taylor and Orr said there will be some major changes in the high school schedule and credit requirements for next school year. According to Taylor, the six-year plan sets forth the course requirements necessary for completion of a Tech Prep program for four years of high school and two years of postsecondary education or training.
   Why six years rather than four years, since most freshmen have no idea of what career they will pursue?
   "I tell the students and their parents that nothing is carved in stone. They are at liberty to change their plan. It's their decision," Taylor said.
   Basically, the six-year planning process is to ensure that high school students complete specific, articulated, challenging courses in high school, so that, following graduation, they will be prepared for higher level education and technical opportunities.
   "There are two paths to choose from -- one for college and one for technical school. We encourage students to do dual paths -- they take both the minimal classes for college and all required classes for tech school," Taylor said, noting that plans are reviewed annually and may be revised. "What I would like to do after the freshman year, is to sit down with each student and review these plans and see how he or she feels thus far and go from there. We really want to get them focused in an area," she explained.
   Taylor explained that most eighth graders at this point are more worried about their first week of high school -- not about their career. And, according to statistics, they may not even know when they complete high school what they want to do, "but at least they will be prepared for college or technical school," Taylor said. She noted that, on average, college students change their major six times before they graduate.
   According to Taylor, the advantage of the six-year plan is to get the student thinking about his future and to prepare the student for an education after school. "When a student completes high school and receives his diploma and meets the requirement of the six-year plan, the college cannot come back to the student and say, 'you can't come because you didn't have the required courses in high school,'" she explained.
   Taylor also noted that another advantage of the plan is that it gets parents involved. "It is probably the only time that I or any other high school counselor will get to meet individually with the student and their parents. It provides us the opportunity to meet the student's parents," she said.
   "The conference is actually the time when eighth graders register for high school," Taylor said. "We do have a good turnout for the orientation."
   Also, Taylor noted that next year, all county high schools will revert back to six periods of study rather than doing the block classes. Seniors graduating this year must have 28 credits, whereas, eighth graders entering high school next fall will only be required to have 22 credits when they graduate with the six period plan, she explained.
   At Unaka High School, parents may schedule an appointment with Taylor by calling 474-4100 during the hours of 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Evening and weekend appointments are available for parents who are unable to meet during the school day. Parents may begin calling the school to schedule an appointment after the orientation on Tuesday evening.
   At Hampton High School, parents can call the school counselor's office at 725-5208 to schedule a conference.