Freshman Wheel Rolls Out

Changes are coming to Tigard High next year in regards to how freshmen take their elective classes.


Hillary Currier

Photography teacher Kelli Lafferty looks at freshman Aiden Carter’s work during a recent class. When the freshman wheel rolls out, freshmen won’t have the chance to take digital photography because they will end up in quarter-long electives made especially for freshmen.

By Delena Do, Staff Writer

This story originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of The Paw.

In the fall of 2020, freshmen will begin taking nine-week-long elective courses rather than full-semester electives.

This concept, dubbed the “Freshmen Wheel,” was proposed by Superintendent Dr. Sue Rieke-Smith. Smith previously worked in the Springfield School District and started freshman wheel there. She believes in the power of a program that allows students to sample classes they might not know that they like. After a period of discussion, Tigard High decided to follow in Springfield’s footsteps and adopt this method, with the hope of pushing students to take more elective classes and find something they want to be a part of for the rest of their high school career.

Associate Principal Andrew Kearl gave an example of how he hopes the freshmen wheel will play out.

“Let’s say you’re a business student and the idea is that you get hooked on business and you really liked it,” Kearl said. “The following year you might do a marketing class and be a leader in the student store by the time you’re in senior year.”

Mountainside High School in Beaverton is in their third year of having a freshmen wheel. Sara Anzallo, a freshman at Mountainside, believes the freshmen wheel is better than the regular system that most schools go by.

“It provides a good opportunity to find out what you want to do with your future in an easier and more productive way,” Anzallo said.

The freshmen wheel will go into effect starting with the class of 2024. This means that current seventh grade students will be the first to experience the freshmen wheel. Trinity Le is a seventh grader at Twality Middle School who thinks that taking eight classes over nine-week intervals would be beneficial and effective.

“I wouldn’t mind much because we get to take more electives, and I think that would benefit a lot of my friends who don’t particularly know what career or path they want to be on,” Le said.

Even though most feedback has been positive, there are still those who are worried about this concept. Most concern stems from the fact that nine weeks may be too short for teachers to teach their subject.

Choir Director Robert Hawthorne, who was initially concerned with the idea of a freshmen wheel, changed his mind after seeing how Mountainside High School functions with their own wheel. Hawthorne talked about his own personal experiences with the wheel at the middle school where he previously taught, and how dysfunctional the system was.

“They [the middle school] just decided that there were going to be certain courses that used to be year-long,” Hawthorne said.“They were just going to pare them down to just being quarter-length classes, and so it wasn’t necessarily to give experiences for the kids as it was to just diminish course work.”

However, Hawthorne added that Tigard High’s main objective is to create a stand-alone, nine-week courses rather than downsizing a year-long curriculum into nine week classes. This adds further heat to the discussion, as the concern is if even possible to design a class that will cover enough in nine short weeks or about 20 class meetings.

Besides not having enough time to teach, students are worried about not being able to develop a bond with their teachers due to the lack of time. Those who are quieter might not be able to receive the same opportunities to get help from teachers as those who are more outgoing.

“I’m the quiet type, and my teachers usually start to notice me after a month or two, so that doesn’t leave me much time to get help if I need it,” freshman Dara Ouk said. “I don’t think it’s fair for them, because some of my favorite teachers are my elective teachers, and they wouldn’t have the same chance to bond with them as I did.”

Likewise, teachers are concerned that they will not have enough time to connect with each student in order to find their strengths and weaknesses. Another worry students have is about the complicated scheduling for freshmen classes that are year-long such as choir, band, orchestra, and seminary. For the first year, not all elective courses will be chosen to take part in the freshman wheel and this can potentially be a problem.

“People at my school like the wheel, just not some of the classes chosen for the wheel,” Anzallo said.

Anzallo, a supporter of the freshman wheel, claims that the biggest reason why many students are not on board for the wheel is because of the limited choices that the freshman wheel offers them. However, Tigard High plans on making all elective courses be part of the wheel in the future.

As of now, it is too soon to predict anything, and plans may change as the school district discusses ways to improve the freshman wheel. One thing is for sure, changes are coming to Tigard High soon, and whether having freshman wheel is worthwhile or not is left unknown for now.