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American HS course load: can someone explain it please?

lenninlennin Posts: 630Registered User Junior Member
edited July 2010 in High School Life
Ok, so here's the thing: i see people talking all the time about which classes they are taking, how many are AP's, or honours or stuff, and I get a bit confused. Sometimes someone says for instance that in senior year he is gonna take 3 or 4 APs, plus one or two other classes. Are there OTHER classes this person is taking that are two obvious he's not even mentioning, or is he really only taking this 6-7 classes in the entire year?

Plus, how do you pick the classes? Do you have total freedom or is there some classes you absolutely HAVE to take (i know most good colleges require 3-4 years of english, math and history, but what if one isnt planning on going to a good college, or any college at all?)

Any other details are welcome.
I ask because i'm brazilian, and here the government says what you have to study (math, portuguese, chemistry, physics, biology, geography, history, sociology, philosophy, literature, physical ed and a foreign language during the entire HS, and arts for 1 year), plus your school may require one or two other classes (mine requires a writing class), and you can pick other extra ones, kinda extracurricular (other foreign languages, music, theatre, chess, drawing etc). And, all the kids in the same year take the same classes (which kinda sucks for the smart ones). So you can see its really different...
Post edited by lennin on
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Replies to: American HS course load: can someone explain it please?

  • MD MomMD Mom Posts: 6,728Registered User Senior Member
    In the U.S., states regulate what public school students have to take to graduate. Additionally, a local school district will have other requirements beyond what the state requires. Private schools are not bound by state law and their requirements vary. But for the purpose of explanation, let's use local school districts.

    For graduation in our public school district, a student needs these things:
    4 years of English
    4 years of math
    3 years of history (social studies)
    3 years of science
    1 year of an art (band, chorus, art, theater)
    1 year of technology
    1 year of physical education
    2 years of foreign language
    The state might say that a student has to take U.S. history, government, and lab science, for example.

    Course offerings vary widely as do requirements. Different school also have different schedules, so some students might take 24 courses over four years and another takes 32.

    The whole system on the U.S. is complicated greatly because we have states that can essentially do what they want.
  • SchokoladeSchokolade Posts: 1,111Registered User Senior Member
    There are 8 class periods in my daughter's private school, so each student takes 6 - 8 classes per year. Four classes meet on "A" days, and the other four meet on "B" days. Students sometimes take only 6 classes because some advanced classes are double-blocked, which means they meet on both A and B days. Some students take a study hall, for which they are not graded (and which doesn't count as a class on the transcript).

    Graduation requirements are similar to those listed above by MD Mom, except students must also take Bible every year (it is a Christian school), junior seminar (which helps with college admissions issues; the school is college prep) and speech. Many students opt out of physical education by playing a school sport. Our students don't have to take a technology class but must pass a 3-hour computer test.
  • roostersignroostersign Posts: 156Registered User Junior Member
    The number of class requirements depends on the school. For my school, in order to graduate, you need to have 4 years of English, 2 years of science (of which one has to be biology), 2 years of math, 3 semesters of gym and 1 year of Fitness for Life (it's our health class that all freshman take), 3 years of social studies (1 of which must be U.S. History), and an additional academic elective requirement (meaning another year of either science, math, english, social studies, or world language. In addition, we must accumulate about 100 credits before graduation (most year-long classes are weighted at 5 credits each). And in our particular state, we must also have at least 990 hours in the classroom.

    You don't have total freedom choosing your classes (see guidelines above); however, in my school in particular, there are many different classes you can take to fill certain requirements. Some classes, usually electives, are unleveled, but most academic classes are. We have 5 ranks (from highest to lowest): AP, Honors, Accelerated/Enriched, College Prep, and Standard Prep.

    Most schools in the U.S., I think, have either one of these 3 types of schedules.

    Type 1: My school runs 8 periods long, which means 8 blocks of time that we can fill in. One of the periods has to be subtracted as lunch, leaving only 7 blocks of time (each are around 45 minutes long). Some sciences (all levels of chemistry, all levels of physics, and AP Bio) have double periods, because of the extra lab period in addition to the normal lecture period, so that also takes up time. Usually a student's schedule for each year is composed of one of each of these classes: math, science, history, english, world language, physical education, possible other elective (such as music/art). We have each of these classes every day.

    Type 2: Another type of school schedule I heard of is one that runs on a two-day schedule. Basically, you'll have a set of 4 blocks/periods (that will be twice the length as the periods described in Type 1) the first day and 4 different blocks/periods (again, 2x the length as those described in Type 1) the next day and then the cycle will repeat for the entire year. The amount & type of classes is similar to Type 1. I have never had this type of scheduling so I don't really know much about that.

    Type 3: Lastly, the third type of schedule I've seen is the one where you have a certain 4 periods (again 2x length of Type 1) every day for the first semester, and then a different 4 periods (2x Type 1 length) everyday for the second semester. The amount & type of classes is once again, similar to Type 1.

    This is for the majority of students in public school. I don't know much about other types of U.S. schools such as charter or private.
  • QwertyKeyQwertyKey Posts: 4,590Registered User Senior Member
    Different schools will have different requirements... There are certain classes required to graduate at any high school.

    At my high school it was:
    3 years of English (Apparently almost every other high school requires 4 though, mine was weird in requiring 3, and this may actually be 4 years now but was only 3 for my graduating class)
    2 years of Math (I believe this is 3 years now though, but I imagine this is waived if you take Calc BC your Freshman or Sophomore year)
    1 year of Biology
    1 year of Earth Science
    1 year Civics
    1 year US History
    1 year World History
    .5 years Health
    .5 years Art
    .5 years Speech
    1 year PE
    Some number of electives

    We had 7 available periods. Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors had to take at least 6 classes. Seniors could take however many they wanted up to 7.
  • lenninlennin Posts: 630Registered User Junior Member
    thank you guys! =]

    but when you say that 3 years of sciences are required, can it just be any science? Like, can one take 1 year of biology, one of physics and one of chemistry, or even can one take 3 years of biology and not take any other science at all?
  • xrCalico23xrCalico23 Posts: 4,673Registered User Senior Member
    It's usually one year of each. Since each of these science courses is designed to be completed within a year, it's unlikely for anyone to take one for three years.
  • lenninlennin Posts: 630Registered User Junior Member
    i kinda envy you... 3 years of all is way too much
  • cross0328cross0328 Posts: 567Registered User Member
    at my high school you have to take:
    -4 years of latin
    -4 years of literature
    -4 years of history (senior year it is civics and economics too)
    -4 years of science (bio, physics, chem, then adv bio or adv physics)
    -3-4 years of math (if a senior has taken alg 2 then they can take a college class instead of pre calc or calc)
    -underclassmen have to take art and music/choir twice a week (i think its twice a week) and if they arent participating in a sport they have to take p.e. twice a week. all these classes are optional for upperclassmen
  • shewasshewas Posts: 183Registered User Junior Member
    My school's graduation requirements are...
    4 years of math (algebra 1, geometry, algebra 2, and another)
    4 years of science (biology and three others)
    4 years of social studies (world history 2, US history 1, and two others)
    4 years of english
    1 year of gym
    .5 years of health
    1 year of fine arts (such as art foundations, band, chorus, photography, etc)
    1 year of applied arts (such as woodshop, fashion, cooking, etc)
    1 year of senior seminar
    1 year of a foreign language (spanish, latin, or french options)

    Algebra 1 is done in eighth grade or in both eighth and ninth.
    Spanish 1 or French 1 is usually done in eighth grade as well. Some people take reading instead, though.
    Those classes count for high school credit.

    And there are seven periods total.
  • ekf815ekf815 Posts: 112Registered User Junior Member
    We have 7 periods.

    You have to take:
    4 years English
    3 years Math (Including Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2)
    3 years Social Studies (US History, US Govt, World History)
    3 years science (Biology and two other "lab sciences")
    1 Tech class
    1 Art class
    One semester of health and one semester of gym
    And either:
    2 years of foreign language (most people do this) OR
    Advance tech classes OR
    Career academy (basically an internship)

    Besides classes,we also have to complete 90 hours of community service and do a "World of Work" project (basically means write a resume, cover letter, and do a fake interview)
  • mckyle9423mckyle9423 Posts: 468Registered User Junior Member
    Our graduation requirements:
    4 years of math (even if you're in the honors track, and therefore have taken Alg. I in 8th grade which counts as a credit, you have to take math every year.)
    4 years of English (same as math)
    3 years of Social Studies (under South Carolina law, one unit must be US History and one unit must be Government/Economics - either AP or standard level, no honors courses offered for these.)
    3 lab sciences
    1 other science
    2 Foreign Languages
    7 electives (no more than 4 of these can be Fine Arts classes)
    1 Technology (usually keyboarding) class
  • fearemanfeareman Posts: 475Registered User Junior Member
    You guys only have to have one year of PE? Lucky! Such a waste of my damn time. Its required all 4 years in NJ. In fact this stupid state requires more years of PE than Math, Science, and History.

    Really ticks me off.
  • eastafrobeautyeastafrobeauty Posts: 2,430Registered User Senior Member
    We have to take 5 quarters for any P.E. or gym class :((((((((((


    Those are the only classes that i actually skip.......or try to.... *coughs* "I have to go to the nurse's office...i'm sick" *coughs*

    for us:

    4yrs of English
    4yrs Social studies
    3 yrs Science and math
    1 quarter for art
    1.25 years of gym (there's a variety to choose from like badminton, gymnatics, self defense, normal gym class, weightlifting, aerobics whatever).
    3 years for any elective or language.
  • fearemanfeareman Posts: 475Registered User Junior Member
    Its not that I don't like PE. I enjoy physical activity.. I mean I'm on the varsity swim team. Its just that we do NOTHING in PE. NOTHING. The obese kids don't get any exercise, so wth is the point? I could have taken several courses that I've wanted to take but never could! Waste, waste, waste.
  • everaryeverary Posts: 708Registered User Junior Member
    ^Exactly my sentiments. If I could change one thing about my high school experience, it'd be joining track team freshman year and ditching P.E.
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