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Specialization during high school[]

Issue discussion: Specialization during high school[]

Here's my personal experience with specialization during high school:

During NPR's All Things Considered show for April 11, 2006 Florida Public Radio's Ami Difiore covered a new law in Florida that will require high school students to specialize in a specific course of study. Many people are concerned that high school students will face greater challenges of selecting a "major" than most college students constantly endure. Another valid concern is that specializing students too early will stifle their chances of acquiring a broad knowledge and experience base. However, some argue that if students focus on specific courses they will have better preparation for certain jobs if they do not pursue post-secondary education (collegiate or vocational). Specialized courses of study during high school can have both beneficial and detrimental effects upon students, but I "selected a major" during high school and had a very positive experience.

I attended the Academy of Science and Technology (AST) -- a member of the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science, and Technology (NCSSSMST) -- in the Conroe Independent School District (CISD) as a high school student while living in the Houston, Texas area. The academy specialized in math, science, and technology as a high school student as a magnet program -- that was not based on any socioeconomic metric -- that drew students from all of my district's high schools. Students like me successfully applied through a competitive process during our eighth grade year to attend this program which was hosted at one high school.

I immensely enjoyed my time at the academy because it enabled me to get to know students who had similar interests in math, science, and technology. The academy requires its students to take courses in these disciplines from our program's staff -- including additional requirements like computer science and scientific research methods. In order to graduate from the program students also have to devote some of their elective credits to special courses only offered by the program while participating in group or individual competitions or projects each year. If that isn't enough, students further have to go on several field trips in order to complete the program's graduation requirements. While the academy's students are more focused than other students in the district, most like me enjoy the ability to explore subjects more deeply while enjoying the mentoring of the small faculty.

Looking back at my own experience, another great thing about this program was that my fellow students and I weren't geeks -- as some might think. We were very active in extracurricular activities through the high school that houses the academy. I was amazed at how many of us either played a sport or an instrument (I ran cross country and track). In addition to athletics and arts, the program had students who were cheerleaders, ROTC cadets, leads in plays, club officers and presidents, among other normal high school positions. We even had a homecoming queen my sophomore year. The program clearly attracted students who were more than just interested and gifted in math, science, and technology.

Beyond all of these wonderful opportunities, the academy taught me something about myself. I found out that I didn't want to pursue a college degree or a career in math, science, or technology. Granted, I would have found this out early in college if I had a normal high school curriculum, but this became clear to me much sooner. Thus, I was able to focus on finding something else that I was interested before I started college. Fortunately, I was able to focus on another discipline from the beginning of my college career while earning my degree in that subject.

For these reasons and many more, I'm glad that I participated in the Academy of Science and Technology. The academy didn't turn me off to math, science, and technology, it helped me understand that I wasn't meant to focus on them.

Specialization during high school can easily have very positive effects on students. Luckily, my experience was positive.--Anhhung18901 03:21, 7 July 2006 (UTC)