District 86 administrators are reviewing the courses offered at Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South to determine where there are any meaningful differences.
Acting Superintendant Bruce Law said the goal is to give all students the same scope of choices, and the same level of academic rigor, not to have the students take the same courses at both schools.
The graduation requirements are the same for both schools. For example, three math credits and two science credits are required.
The science classes at each school differ, however.
At Central, the science courses are offered in the traditional order of biology, chemistry and physics.
At South, biology or AP biology is offered as the third science course after geophysics or honor physics and chemistry,
The faculty and administration began vetting the idea of offering the sciences in that sequence about eight years ago, South Principal Brian Waterman said.
Once the new sequence was implemented in 2008, “we had a tremendous increase in the number of students taking AP biology in their junior year,” Waterman said. “What happened before was they would take biology and chemistry in their freshman and sophomore year and then be kind of scared away from taking physics.”
“The more AP classes students take, the more college opportunities they have after they graduate,” Waterman said.
Course selection also varies because the incoming District 86 freshmen come from seven different elementary feeder districts. And they do not arrive with all the same courses under their belt, which affects which classes are recommended to them freshman year.
Freshman at South who already have taken Algebra I or higher can start with honors physics, as opposed to geophysics, which is recommended for students who took Math 8 in eighth grade.
But it’s the electives at Hinsdale Central and South that vary the most, Law said.
Some classes are offered at one school and not the other. When a student wanted to take a class not offered at his school, the district would transport the student to the other campus for that class.
South guidance director Michael Holland said fewer than five Hinsdale South students are transported to Central for a class each year, and most years there are none.
“Most recently, students were sent to Central to take digital video production, but that course is now offered at Hinsdale South,” he said.
“In the reverse, a Hinsdale Central student has attended Hinsdale South to take American Sign Language,” Holland said.
Interest in digital video production grew among South students to the point it justified offering the course at South and buying the equipment needed, Waterman said.
Moving between schools during the school day works best when the course desired is taken first thing in the morning, the last class of the student’s day, or after a study period, to allow time for travel. But that can affect the rest of the student’s schedule.
Christine Stella of Burr Ridge, who graduated in 2012, said she was way ahead when she started University of Illinois last year because of the classes she took at South.
“I took AP calculus, stats, biology, government,” Stella said.
Dustin Mincheski of Burr Ridge said he thinks his son is getting a good education at South, but the courses and extracurricular activities “should be equal across the board.”
“I feel there is a difference, even in the students,” she said, adding the students at Central “have another level of self-worth.”
Chris Swan, a senior from Willowbrook, said he has been satisfied with the courses offered at South.
“I just take the normal classes,” Swan said, such as Algebra 1 and geometry. They seemed challenging enough, he said. “Pre-calculus was pretty hard.”
He also enjoyed his woodworking class.
“It was awesome,” Swan said. “You make some pretty cool things, an end table, a bookshelf or a TV stand.”
He did not know of courses available at Central, but not at South.
“I don’t really talk to any Central kids,” he said.
At least three sessions of introduction to woodworking are offered each semester at South, and two sessions of advanced woodworking, which is a yearlong course.
Woodworking is not available at Central. Once the district course catalogue is prepared, Central students will be able to sign up for woodworking.
“Woodworking is intensive in the kind of equipment you need, and also specialized in the teacher who could teach it,” Law said.
If it turns out there’s a high demand at Central for woodworking, the district will have to evaluate if it has the resources to offer it, Law said.