Course Selection Process Begins at Pinkerton

The one-year agreement between Pinkerton Academy and Hooksett has been approved, and now the real work begins:

Hooksett eighth-graders, and eighth-graders from Pinkerton’s four sending towns – Derry, Chester, Hampstead and Auburn will soon begin the course selection process for their freshman year. They join more than 3,000 current Pinkerton students in the first step toward charting their futures.

But they have help.

Chris Harper, academic dean for the semi-private Derry high school, outlined the course selection process. For current freshmen, sophomores and juniors, it begins in January with an electronic course catalog and process.

“Jan. 3 is a big day,” Harper said. Fresh from holiday break, the students will listen as their current teachers talk about what’s available for classes and what levels they should take. They can list their choices on paper, and by Jan. 15, they are expected to sign up on line.

There are 381 courses to choose from, and a student can take a maximum of seven, Harper said. But it’s not a random process.

“We encourage students to look at courses that will help them with a pathway to their future,” he said. “How can we help them ease that path? We don’t want them taking a class because their friends are in it.”

It’s all part of Pinkerton’s “Five-Year Plan,” where students and their advisers look at a projected four years of high school plus one post-graduate year.

“We look at your fifth year, outside Pinkerton, and then we work backwards,” Harper said. “That pathway changes it’s not locked in stone and the guidance counselors work diligently with students. If something doesn’t work out, they can make changes.”

Eighth-graders from the sending towns have a different program, Harper said. It begins with a Parents’ Night Jan. 6 and 7, explaining scheduling and “A Day In the Life of a Pinkerton Student.”

Jan. 27 is Pinkerton Information Day, in which middle schools send their students to Pinkerton for a day of looking at programs including Junior ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps), Career and Technical Education, fine arts and more.

“These events are kids talking to kids,” Harper said, “and how the programs have helped them.”

A Course Night on Feb. 5 will give specific presentations on courses and levels.

By Feb. 14, he said, students and their parents need to send course selection worksheets through their middle school to Pinkerton.

From Feb. 17 to 21, counselors visit every potential student in every middle school to discuss course choices.

“They are asking career questions, for the five-year plan, even before the student is at Pinkerton,” Harper said.

Though freshmen take a core curriculum together, there is still some wiggle room in a schedule, Harper said. Again, he said, it’s not etched in stone. The requirements are English, math and physical science, he said. “If you’re listed for art but you want to take small engine, we can accommodate that. If you want to be a doctor and you need AP (Advance Placement) biology and chemistry, you need to do this in your junior year, that in your sophomore year.”

There is an electronic waiver form, and students can make changes up until June, Harper said. He spends the summer working on scheduling, and “If a lot of kids want A-level history, I can add a section,” he said.

Students also have 10 days after the first day of school to change a course.

Pinkerton’s A, B and C leveling is part of individualizing education, according to Harper. Rarely, he said, is a kid all the same level. “You could be an A-level in math and science, a B-level in humanities,” he noted. Guidance counselors work to put each child where he or she can best perform.

In the case of eighth-graders, the middle-school teachers weigh in and make suggestions, he said.

“And parents have the ability to adjust levels if they see fit,” Harper said.

Dates and times for the eighth-grade events are:
• Jan. 6 and 7, Parents’ Night, 7 p.m., Stockbridge Theatre;
• Feb. 5, Course Night, 5:30 to 8 p.m., Stockbridge Theatre.