How can AMSA consistently offer the right electives for its student body?


Erin Butler

Striking the proper balance with electives is a perennial problem at AMSA.

At AMSA, electives are one of the best ways to broaden knowledge beyond core classes, but students constantly run into the problem of options disappearing after a year or two because of low enrollment, and while AMSA has been designed to emphasize math and science, does the elective structure really reflect that?

“It was a good selection of choices between electives, but I want to take three, not including arts,” freshman Eilidh McCobb said.

Students recently signed up for next year’s classes, and two of the electives Eilidh wanted to take were English electives, and one was a biology elective. There are only three biology-centered electives in the science department, while there are 14 English electives. 

“I wish there were more science electives, but we don’t have much space,” science Department Chair Christina Jagielski said.

Space is definitely an important factor, but it certainly isn’t the only factor at play. 

Biology is a viable career path for many students at AMSA, and it would seem logical to have more electives in that field rather than English. 

“Again, I think there’s a good amount to choose from, but it was hard, and I hope they don’t take some of them away so I can take them later throughout the years,” Eilidh said.

The school has “science” in its name, after all, so shouldn’t there be more electives in that department in general than others?

A perennial problem, however, is if people don’t enroll in an elective it will be taken out of the curriculum.

But just because one group of students doesn’t want to take a class, that doesn’t necessarily mean another group down the line will react the same way. The obverse is also true: just because a group of students signs up for a particular class in one year, there is no guarantee it will happen going forward.

A potential solution is class surveys, from grades 8-11. 

“We do try to get students’ input, but sometimes we can’t do classes because of teachers not having time, [as well as] not enough students signing up,” Ms. Jagielski said.

Additionally, when a teacher who taught a particular elective leaves the school or has a schedule change, it can be difficult to find another teacher who is both willing and capable of taking over that class. 

“I think a survey is a good idea,” Eilidh said. “There was a class that I heard a lot of people talking about hoping to take, and then it got taken out.”

It would also be a good way for students to be more involved with the community and academic choices at AMSA, which at the moment arguably extends only to those involved in student government.

Students overall like the more relaxed and varied atmosphere of electives. But without consistent student input, offering the right ones could remain problematic.