The Science Behind Course Selection

Friday, March 01, 2013 - By: David McCarthy

As the Winter Term hurtles to a conclusion, students begin to wonder what their second term report card will look like and whether they are making the kind of progress that will open up doors for them next year, at Brentwood or beyond. Teachers will be busy finalizing assessments and producing what they trust will be fair and balanced marks that reflect each student’s performance and work ethic. Formal reports offer an opportunity to explain raw marks and to suggest strategies for further improvement.

Brentwood rightly prides itself on the quality of this process and on individualized attention to each student. Generic reports or computerized comments will, we hope, never be a part of this process. We are reminded annually that a key component of success is how well the teacher gets to know his or her students and how that relationship is fostered through ongoing feedback, both written and conversational.

Reports for Grade 10 and 11 students also guide the process of selecting subjects for the following year, helping students and parents see where strengths lie and how academic success can best be achieved within a framework of elective courses. This year that process will be brought forward somewhat to allow even more time for reflection and discussion at the family level.

Next week, students will be asked by their advisors to consider the courses available next year and to begin thinking about their options. A preliminary form will be completed over the Spring Break in consultation with parents and then students will meet with their advisors once more to discuss these preliminary course selections. For the Grade 10s, there will be the decisions regarding sciences; how many Grade 11 sciences to take and whether to select Advanced Placement setting or follow the regular BC Ministry curriculum. Should a Language 11 be pursued and should mathematics be in the form of Pre-Calculus 11 or Foundations of Mathematics 12?

The rationale behind these decisions will be explained at grade-wide meetings that are conducted by the post-secondary counseling team of Mr. Rick Rodrigues, Mrs. Kate Coull and Mr. Timio Colistro. Students are required to follow up these meetings through individual interviews with the our post-secondary counselors and parents are also encouraged to ask questions of them by phone or email. Grade 11 students entering their senior year have even more choices to make and must try and find the path that best suits their strengths and post-secondary requirements.

A wide range of senior elective courses will, next year, be expanded to include Law 12, Environmental Science AP, and Financial Accounting 12, courses which are also open to Grade 11s. All of these individual student programs will be reviewed in the light of final standings and end-of-year reports, by counselors, students and parents alike with a view to optimizing success in the following year. Through this comprehensive process of advice, reflection and informed decision making, we trust that students will find themselves in courses that match their strengths, passions and aspirations.  

Though there is only one elective choice for our Grade Nines going into Grade 10, they can select a subject from an eclectic menu including Robotics, Marketing, Science and Ethics, International Relations, Marketing, Beginners Mandarin, Music Theory and Computer Science.  This process occurs in the final term and again is guided by the advisor.

Any feedback that parents have to offer on how the system might be improved is warmly encouraged; I invite you to email me at

Mr. David McCarthy, Director of Academics

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