Curriculum, College Planning, Senior Project & More
School Counseling Department
Each student is assigned a counselor at the beginning of the school year, which is printed on your student’s class schedule. A list of school counselors and their contact information is shown below. All freshmen are assigned to the same counselor, who is currently Kate Kamanga.
Department Head, Bilingual Counselor
(707) 933-4010 x5010
College and Career Center
The College and Career Center (CCC) helps students with post-high school educational and work-based plans. Students can receive guidance on college applications, financial aid forms, and scholarship opportunities. The CCC offers college workshops for juniors and seniors. Students and parents are encouraged to meet with CCC counselors at any point during their high school career to start the college planning process.
The CCC also houses the workplace learning coordinator, who assists students in organizing job-shadowing opportunities, internships, and career opportunities directly after high school.
It’s Never Too Early
While college may seem like a distant future for your freshman son or daughter, there are helpful steps to take to alleviate unnecessary stress during senior year.
1. Read the SVHS counseling department’s College Handbook HERE.
2. Meet with an academic counselor and map out an academic plan for all four years to make sure your courses meet college admission requirements. While there is variation from college to college, the minimum admission requirements generally include:
- 4 years of English
- 3 years of Mathematics (some schools require 4 years, depending on major)
- 3 years of Science
- 3 years of social studies/history
- 2 years of foreign language (some schools highly recommend 4 years)
For California state universities, confirm that high school courses meet “A-G” requirements. The UC/CSU system is very specific about what courses are “A-G” approved. For example, in the past some students had taken Earth Science as freshmen only to find out that it did not meet the UC’s “d” science requirement. The University of California publishes the “A-G” course list for SVHS HERE (https://hs-articulation.ucop.edu/agcourselist#/list/details/2395/21)
3. Get to Know Your Teachers
Take advantage of A+ periods and after school to meet with your teachers. These are the people who will have to write your letters of recommendation for college. They won’t be able to write anything meaningful if they don’t know you.
4. Standardized Testing – Don’t put off standardizing testing to the last minute
- PSAT – Sign up for the PSAT in either 10th or 11th grade – the PSAT serves as the warm-up for the SAT for either sophomores or juniors. It’s a low-stakes first hand opportunity for students to experience what college admission testing is like. While PSAT scores will not factor into admission decisions, it helps students to work out the aches and pains of test-taking and develop better test-taking skills, endurance, time management and decision-making. Dress rehearsal for the SAT. The PSAT results can serve as a tool for revealing academic areas that require attention before launching into full-blown SAT testing. Establishes a baseline score and reveal.
- SAT Subject Test – SAT Subject Tests are required by approximately 40 of most selective U.S. colleges. The minimum number of SAT Subject Tests required by colleges is typically two, with the exception of Georgetown University, which requires three. Whether to exceed a college’s recommended number of Subject Tests will most likely depend on the competitiveness of the applicant pool.
- It can be advantageous for students to consider taking a Subject Test upon completion of a corresponding advanced or AP class (typically May or June test dates). That way students avoid preparing “twice” for the Subject Test (once for the AP and once for the Subject Test, especially if the subject will not be revisited before the senior year. It’s not uncommon for sophomores or juniors to take a Subject Test immediately completing AP World History or AP US History.
- It should also be noted that some schools that accept the ACT standardized test don’t require SAT Subject Tests as part of admission requirements, which may be a consideration when determining whether to take the SAT or ACT.
- Fee Waivers
5. Explore new interests and extra-curricular activities
6. Optimizing Summer – Use summer as an opportunity to work or arrange internships.
7. Standardized Tests
Test Optional Schools – There is a growing number of colleges and universities that recognizes the limitations of standardized test scores in evaluating its applicants and have made standardized scores optional in the application process. The comprehensive list of schools can be found at FairTest.org (http://www.fairtest.org/) and include many prestigious liberal arts institutions including American University (DC), Wesleyan University (CT), Bard College (NY), and Bowdoin College (ME).
8. WUE Program
WUE – The Western Undergraduate Exchange is a consortium of public universities across 16 western states that offers nonresident tuition discounts to California residents. WUE tuition is considerably less than non-resident tuition and is never more than 150% of in-state tuition. For example, the WUE tuition rate for Colorado State University is $16,010 compared to out-of-state tuition of $26,010, a savings of $10,000 annually. The WUE tuition schedule for 2016-17 is available HERE (http://www.wiche.edu/info/wue/WUEsavingsChart.pdf)
Applicants candidates must also meet minimum SAT/ACT and GPA criteria. A small sampling of WUE schools include Portland State University (OR), Southern Oregon University, Colorado State University, University of Colorado (Denver), University of Alaska (Fairbanks), and University of Hawaii. See the full list HERE (http://www.wiche.edu/info/publications/wueHandout.pdf).
9. Naviance is a software tool offered to SVHS students that facilitates self-discovery, career exploration, academic planning and college preparation. Each student is given access to the Naviance system in the 10th grade to start exploring career and college options. It also serves as a portal for college applications.
10. UC Index
The UC System uses a formula, called an admissions index, to determine if you’re in the top 9% of California high school graduates. They convert your SAT/ACT scores to a UC score, which they match to your UC GPA. If your UC score is equal to or greater than the score required for your GPA, then you’re in the top 9%. Read about the UC indexing system HERE.
Courses & Graduation
Mapping Out a Plan
A critical element of any student’s high school career is selecting courses and completing the necessary graduation requirements.
Students typically make their schedule requests in February or March for the following academic year. They normally fill out a schedule request form, often without parent knowledge or approval. Therefore, it is important for students and parents to browse the course catalog — download it HERE — in order to familiarize themselves with graduation and minimum college admission requirements for the University of California system (called A-G requirements) before schedule requests are finalized.
It is also highly recommended that parents and students fill out an academic plan for all four years in order to make sure that course selection aligns with graduation and college admission requirements. You can download the organizational tool HERE.
Making Class Schedule Changes
It is important that students choose carefully when making course requests, because schedule changes are discouraged by the counseling department. If a student finds himself/herself in a situation where it is imperative to make a schedule change, students must do so within the first two weeks of each semester. There are a few exceptions to the two-week rule for example, if new course sections are added or deleted from the Master Schedule, or if students want to increase or decrease the level of course difficulty (e.g., change from Spanish 2 to Spanish 3 or change from AP Physics to regular physics).
Students must fill out a schedule change request form available from the counseling department.
A student may drop a course up until the 6-week grading period, but will receive a “NM” or No Mark, which will be reflected on the transcript. Parent approval is required to drop a course. Students who drop a course after the 6-week grading period will receive an “F” on his/her transcript. Read here for a more detailed description of school guidelines.
The Finish Line
SVHS requires a minimum of 220 credits to graduate with a high school diploma. The requirements are summarized in the table below. Each full-year course is equivalent to ten credits. Most students exceed the minimum credit requirements since they are required to a full course load of six courses per year, equivalent to 240 credits.
The district also requires that students meet the University of California’s minimum “A-G” requirements for graduation. The main difference between the two criteria is that not all courses offered in math and science qualify as “A-G.” For example, Earth Science, Agricultural Earth Science, Plant & Soil Science, and AP Environmental Science would meet the SVHS’s science graduation criteria but NOT the UC’s “A-G” science requirement. Some of these science courses would meet the UC’s “G” elective requirement, however. In addition, math courses such as Bridge to Geometry, RSP (Resource) Algebra or SDC (Special Day Class) Mathematics are not “A-G” compliant. The list of “A-G” approved courses are summarized in the table below. For the most current list of “A-G” courses, consult the UC official list HERE.
Another important distinction between the high school’s graduation and the UC’s A-G criteria is that none of the English Language Development (ELD) courses taken by most limited English speakers qualify for “A-G” credit. Therefore, many limited English-speaking students must apply for an “A-G” exemption in order to graduate. In 2015-16, only 43% of SVHS graduates (112 students) met “A-G” minimum requirements (Read the California Department of Education Dataquest HERE).
For Student Athletes
The high school requires that all students enroll in two years of PE to meet minimum graduation requirements. However, sophomores, juniors, and seniors who participate on SVHS athletic teams are eligible to waive one year of PE, equivalent to 10 academic credits. Students are not awarded these credits, but have the opportunity to enroll in an academic class in lieu of PE. Students must be enrolled in six academic classes to comply. (Home Period, Teacher’s Assistant, Academic Tutor, Bilingual Tutor, or AVID Tutor are not approved substitute classes for PE.) To waive one year of PE, or 10 credits, students must also obtain CPR certification and participate in three athletic teams in a single year (Junior Varsity or Varsity), or two athletic teams in the first year and two athletic teams in the second year.
A waiver application must be completed for each year of sports participation and submitted at the beginning of the season to be eligible. A waiver verification form must also be completed by the student and coach at the end of each sports season. You can download the PE Waiver Application and PE Waiver Verification Forms.
High School Math Curriculum
What is Common Core Math?
In 2015, Sonoma Valley Unified began its transition to Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in math across the district. The distinguishing feature of Common Core Math is that it emphasizes real-life mathematical applications and abstract and quantitative reasoning over speed and accuracy of computation. As a result, fewer topics are covered in each grade but at greater depth. The table below compares old standards to new Common Core standards.
Common Core Adoption at SVHS
As part of the transition to Common Core math, SVHS adopted a new course sequence that would funnel the majority of 9th graders into Algebra 1. Common Core Algebra 1 differs significantly from the former 8th grade Algebra course because it covers more topics and requires deeper conceptual understanding for success.
As a consequence, math acceleration in middle school was discouraged by the State and district because education experts and state policy-makers including Patrick Callahan of the California Math Project at UCLA, argued that skipping grades or rushing through foundational concepts in middle school would lead to poor math outcomes in high school. Patrick Callahan made a presentation to SVUSD parents and explained that California’s dramatic shift in math was driven by the high failure rate of first-year community college students across California. The level of math needed by first-year students to be successful is almost exclusively middle school mathematics. You can view the presentation HERE: Patrick Callaghan CCSS Math Presentation 012914 Eng
The high school Common Core math sequence proposed in 2015 is shown below. The most notable change from previous years is that all freshmen start in Algebra 1. When the course sequence was first unveiled, parents expressed grave concerns about the inability of students to reach Calculus by grade 12. The district superintendent originally promised that an alternate pathway would be developed for advanced students to reach Calculus by grade 12 without enrolling in extra courses during the school year and summer. A copy of the district correspondence is exhibited BELOW. However, the district failed to keep its promise.
Opportunities for Acceleration
Since the roll-out of Common Core math in 2015, the district has reinstated opportunities for acceleration for students to advance beyond Pre-Calculus (formerly Math IV) in response to parent feedback. The originally proposed options are listed below.
- Take a second math class as an elective in 9th or 10th grade as shown in the diagram below. Students also have the option to enroll in an “Honors” version of Algebra 1 and Geometry in Grade 9. The “Honors” version is offered as a back-to-back course that starts at zero period (7:30am). For some students, the start time and the consecutive three hours of math present a deterrent for some students to enroll in this option. Furthermore, freshmen who enroll in the dual back-to-back honors math sequence are not granted a free home period, and thus, by default, must enroll in 7 academic classes instead of the standard 6 courses.
- Enroll in Geometry in summer school. Parents cannot rely on the high school to offer Geometry in the summer, particularly given its fiscal constraints. Currently, SVHS does not accept original graduation credit for Geometry classes at the junior college.
- Enroll in Algebra 2 or Pre-Calculus (Math IV) at Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC), which was a common practice for many “late bloomers” in math to accelerate themselves. In practice, SVHS does not accept original credits for these courses taken at the JC even though it offered this option to parents. SEE Secondary Math Pathways – Sonoma Valley Unified FAQs December 2015.
- SVUSD reinstated math acceleration in middle school that would also allow high school students to be eligible to take two AP math courses by Grade 12. As of 2016, middle school students can elect to accelerate in 7th grade by taking an advanced class that combines the content of 7th and 8th grade math into a single course. Students who elect this path are eligible for Algebra in 8th grade and Geometry in 9th grade.
The current course catalog continues to reports math prerequisites for several science classes including Lab Biology, Sustainable Ag Bio, Advanced Bio, Chemistry, Ag & Soil Chemistry, Physics and AP Physics. Apparently, the math and science departments eliminated all math requirements for science classes last year. However, parents have not been notified of this change, nor is any information available on SVHS website.
- Shrinking Student Pipeline for Advanced Math Courses
By design, there are less than 5% of 8th graders enrolled in Algebra 1 in 2016-17 compared to 15% in 2010-11. As a result, there is a shrinking pipeline of math students demanding advanced math courses. Declining demand threatens the high school’s ability to offer fully-enrolled AP math classes due to financial constraints. The contractual student limit as stipulated by the 2015-18 VMTA Contract is capped at 31 students per class.
- Inadequate Preparation for SAT/ACT
College-bound students who follow the original Common Core math sequence will not have learned all the key areas of math that are tested in the SAT or ACT by the spring of junior year or fall of senior year. While the heart of the SAT/ACT focuses on the system of algebraic equations, approximately 10% of the test covers advanced topics such as trigonometry and nonlinear functions taught in Math IV. Algebra 2 students are exposed to some of advanced topics, but are at a disadvantage compared to students who have completed or concurrently enrolled in Math IV. The average Math SAT score reported in 2016-17 was 522. Sixty-one percent (61%) of admitted students to UC Berkeley scored above 700 on the math portion of the SAT, and ninety-seven percent (97%) scored greater than 600.
Sonoma Valley High students have an opportunity to explore focused leanring pathways in Agriculture and Engineering. Each pathway is composed of a three-year linked, specialized curriculum, exposure to career possibilities and great field trips to schools and worksites. These programs also invite guest speakers from their respective fields and offer opportunities for job shadows and internships.
Learn more about the Agriculture Pathway HERE.
Learn more about the Engineering, Design and Technology Pathway HERE.