Students Have More Course Options in 2023-2024 School Year


Madeleine Mehler

“I think that’s an underlying theme– we’re trying to provide you guys with opportunities to learn how to be productive in the 21st century,” social studies Department Chair Dominic Velotta said.

Starting in the 2023-2024 school year, Beachwood will be offering three new courses in the social studies department and making adjustments to course offerings in the math and English departments as well.

The new social studies courses include women’s studies, criminal justice and financial literacy.  

In the English department, juniors and seniors can now earn English credit through electives such as journalism & media literacy, creative writing, African American literature and art of motion picture.

In the math department, AP precalculus will replace honors precalculus and honors calculus will replace regular calculus. 

The addition of financial literacy is not a choice. It has been mandated by the state of Ohio, which has made financial literacy a graduation requirement starting with the class of 2026. 

According to the Ohio Department of Education, “Ohio law requires students who enter ninth grade for the first time on or after July 1, 2022, the class of 2026, to earn one-half credit of financial literacy as a graduation requirement.”

Freshman Sienna James says that the requirement to take financial literacy will limit her elective options.

Financial literacy will have an impact on my schedule and the classes I am able to take,” she said. “Currently, I take three electives- Spanish, intro to design and orchestra, and I’m enjoying all of them.”

“I’ll probably have to give up one to take financial literacy,” she said. “I think that it can be pretty useful, especially in our future lives, but I don’t think it should be a requirement to graduate.” 

Meanwhile women’s studies and criminal justice are being added in an effort to diversify the social studies curriculum offerings.

Social Studies Department Chair Dominic Velotta explained that district administrators have been discussing adding diverse course offerings to the social studies curriculum for several years now. The choice of these two courses was based on community input over the last few months.  

“At least two different Google forms were sent out asking for input,” Velotta said.

Criminal justice and women’s studies received the highest votes, leading to the addition of these courses. Asian studies was a close third; although an additional teacher is being hired, the department only has room for two new courses.

Velotta is happy to see that Beachwood is expanding social studies options to reflect student identities and interests, in line with offerings at other high schools. 

“I think that’s an underlying theme–  we’re trying to provide you guys with opportunities to learn how to be productive in the 21st century,” he said. “So, understanding women’s studies, understanding criminal justice… these are topics that are relevant today”.

Guidance counselor Jason Downey is glad that students will get training for a wide range of careers through the criminal justice course. 

“Students who are interested in psychology or sociology can [learn] how the criminal justice system works,” he said. “I know we have students who go on to college to study criminal justice, forensics, criminology, who want to be police officers or even lawyers. They can at least get a taste of what that’s like and get some of that content to prepare them for college.”

Sophomore Madeleine Mehler is excited to take criminal justice next year. 

“I’ve always been interested in the criminal justice system, and this year Mrs. Crossman and I had multiple conversations about different court cases, so I’m excited to see what she does with the class,” she said. 

Additionally, BHS has changed what English courses juniors and seniors can take to fulfill graduation requirements. 

“The course sequences have changed too, so students can take a variety of English credits as upperclassmen to fulfill the junior and senior English [requirements],” Downey said.  “A student can take journalism for a semester and then art of motion picture or creative writing the next semester to fulfill the English requirement that they need for graduation.” 

Additionally, students now have the option of taking College Credit Plus (CCP) English in the building with Dr. Casey Matthews.

“We wanted to be able to provide a college-level course here at the high school for students who maybe don’t have the transportation to get there, [but] can still take advantage of this opportunity to earn college credit that can be used in public universities in the state of Ohio,” Matthews said.

The English Department is trying to meet the needs of students who are opting to take CCP courses for a variety of reasons.

However, she also explained that some students have found that the CCP option has not adequately met their needs.

“I know what Beachwood students already know,” she said. “How can I make this course still challenging for them and teach them better writing skills?”

Matthews consulted with the district’s Director of Curriculum & Instruction Dr. Linda LoGalbo and faculty at Cleveland State to create the class. 

Matthews explained that CCP English 102 has a research focus. 

“So that’s what I’m in the process of doing, designing something that is very focused on what academic writing looks like at the collegiate level, [such as] how to read and cite academic articles,” Matthews said. “For anyone who is going to be doing research in their careers, this is something that maybe you want to consider doing.”

According to a letter to the community sent out by the English Department, the decision to give English credit for electives was motivated by a desire to provide challenging and intriguing opportunities, a space to meaningfully engage with peers as well as the option of accessing college-level courses.

Matthews wants the department to be more open to student opinions and preferences. 

“As a department, we should be flexible,” she said.

The change in the math department was initiated by a change from the College Board.

“This is the first year that CollegeBoard is offering AP Precalc, which means that we can offer it,” said math department chair Lisa Morgan. 

Math is mostly sequential in its course offerings. There are not many electives students can take, with the exception of AP Statistics. 

“The state mandates Algebra 2 be taken and then after that, precalc, then calc,” Morgan said. “These are structured classes preparing you for college and [receiving] college credit.”

Ultimately, Morgan believes that these new courses will benefit students. The addition of AP Precalculus will give students AP credit and Honors Calculus will have the potential to boost student GPA as they study college material.