How Can We Improve Add/Drop?

Anna Messer, ’15

Compared to others engaging in the chaotic process that is Add/Drop, I just wanted to switch two classes — Biology and Seminar. Having checked with my Biology teacher the previous day to see if there was space, I arrived to school at eight o’clock on the first morning of Add/Drop week to secure a good spot in line to meet with Dean Brutsaert. The climax of my struggles with this treacherous project occurred when I was next in line right when the clock struck nine o’clock, the beginning of first period. I had three-period Biology Lab, which meant I wouldn’t be able to meet with Dean Brutsaert before fourth period, therefore jeopardizing any chance I had of switching my Seminar class. Yet, if I stayed and switched my class, it meant that I would have had first period free. So I stayed. Sure enough, I snagged the last spot available in the Seminar class. I ended up going to Lab for two periods, because since I had switched in on Wednesday, I had missed my new Biology class’ lab session, which was on Tuesday. I entered Lab and apologized to my teacher for being late. While I felt guilty for this interruption, I was not regretful of my decision. How could it be that the only way for me to achieve the schedule that I wished for was to purposefully miss the beginning of a class that I wanted to drop?

Although the Add/Drop process is a vital example of the freedom BHSEC students are given, at our school, unlike in college, our teachers have a legal requirement to take attendance. Many students, such as Peter Hook (Y1), were placed in electives that were far from the ones they had requested. “It took me until Friday to get off of a waitlist and into an elective I wanted. I wasn’t able to hand in my Add/Drop form until Tuesday, which meant there was a possibility I was marked absent Monday” said Hook. Besides the problem with attendance, students who switched into classes towards the end of Add/Drop are often behind in their new classes, as teachers can’t afford to waste a week of their course. 

It is clear that certain improvements are needed for the Add/Drop operation.

First of all, to avoid having students give up their spots in line because they have to get to class, an earlier start to Add/Drop is warranted. Additionally, students who only need to sign up for waitlists have complained that there is a lack of uniformity among how teachers manage their waitlists. Io Brooks (Y1) argued, “teachers should all use the same system; some teachers put up public waitlists, others don’t use waitlists, and it can be very complicated trying to coordinate with each teacher’s preferences.” Brooks also mentioned that at BHSEC Queens, students are informed of the meeting times of classes before they sign up for them, which makes their Add/Drop period a lot more efficient. While this may not be completely possible at BHSEC Manhattan, since the permanence of classes seen in the course guide relies on the number of students that sign up for them, it would be possible for the number of students initially enrolled in a class to be added to the course guide sent to students at the beginning of Add/Drop, as well as the typical maximum number of students allowed in each class. This would enable students to make better judgments before attempting to rearrange their schedules.

A less realistic idea proposed by some students is to try and move the Add/Drop process online. With many classes so intertwined into programs such as Moodle and Schoology, and some even using an online textbook, some wonder whether instead of running up and down stairways to be the first one on a waitlist, it would be possible to type their name on an online list. Yet this dreamlike solution has flaws—for one, not all students have regular access to the Internet. Also, any time chosen to begin the process would be in conflict with at least one student. Overall, while most students are able to achieve some version of their schedule that they are satisfied with, it is not without a little sweat and luck that they do so. Although the Add/Drop process does work, there are a few adjustments that need to be made to reduce the chaos of the system. This would lead to a better start to the semester for everyone.


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