An increasing number of students are taking school service, even if they didn’t request it, because of the lack of space in academic and elective classes.
As of Dec. 3, 437 students are in school service, 204 of which requested the class. Originally reserved only for juniors and seniors as stated in the CVHS Program Planning Guide, the class now carries five sophomores. There are 11 students taking more than one section of it.
All these numbers have increased over the last three school years. In 2010-11, 315 students enrolled in school service by December, 171 of which requested the class. By the end of the school year, 421 students took it, including two sophomores and two freshmen. Fourteen students had more than one section of school service.
Last year, 372 students were in school service as of December, 188 of which requested the class. By the end of the school year, 522 students were in school service with one freshman and two sophomores. Thirty students had more than one section.
According to Principal Mary Ann Valles, the administration has been working towards lowering the number of students in school service.
There is no definite explanation as of yet for the slightly larger-than-normal amount of TAs. However, there is a common theory among teachers and staff.
“It feels like for many students it’s a default way to fill in their schedule,” said John Green, a CVHS teacher and president of the Castro Valley Teachers Association.
Many students are in school services either because the classes for their requested electives were full or they dropped a class that could not be replaced by any other subject or elective.
“Part of it is kids not sticking out for what they sign up for,” said counselor Susan Elliot.
Karena Doan, another counselor, agreed. “There is definitely a culture of, ‘We can just drop a class,’” she said. “There’s pretty much nowhere else to put the students,” said history teacher Mark Mladinich, whose three TAs went to him because they needed a full schedule.
This is not to say that TAs are not useful or unappreciated. For many teachers and staff, the TAs help finish work and run errands that teachers would otherwise have no time to do. School service also teaches important skills in the workplace, such as organization and creating a working relationship with higher-level coworkers or bosses.
However, when multiple TAs are within a single period, teachers quickly run out of tasks for their TAs.
“TAs help teachers and the office a lot,” said Mladinich. “But with such a high number of TAs, it would seem pertinent to open up more sections of electives so students could have more educational options.”
A better solution must be created for those students with holes in their schedules. School services does not fulfill an a-g requirement and is not counted when calculating college GPAs for college applications.
A popular suggestion to lowering the number of students in school service was the addition of a study hall period. Students with free periods could put those hours to good use in completing homework, taking missed tests, and help students manage their schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Grades could improve because of the time taken during school to complete work.
But adding more classes is expensive, especially with the budget cuts in place. According to Green, it is cheaper to add more TAs to a class as students rather than opening up entirely new classes.
“Is it a productive contribution in campus, or is it babysitting?” asked Green. “It’s a real disservice to the students.”