What Does the High School Core Curriculum Include?

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by All Star Staff

curriculum overview for high school teachers
curriculum overview for high school teachers

As a prospective secondary education teacher, you may be wondering exactly what classes you can expect to teach once you start your career-and what the course content of those classes will be. The answer is contained in your middle and high school curriculum.

While schools, districts and states all have varying standards, there are some general principles you can expect to find in virtually every secondary school curriculum. Read on to find out what kids are learning in secondary schools today.

Middle School Curriculum

With the relative youth of their students and the integrated approach they take toward education, middle schools have the flexibility to create effective teaching units that cross subject-matter barriers and help students learn across educational disciplines.

When they use this collaborative freedom to its fullest extent, teachers can carry out a middle school curriculum that engages young minds to explore subjects beyond the common terms of math, science, social studies, and English.

For example, an integrated middle school curriculum unit might explore both the students’ awareness of self-identity and the different types and levels of cultural awareness in different countries.

Elements of history, politics, religion and diversity could be discussed in social studies. Aspects of human development can be covered in both science and creative writing, and for additional perspective, art or drama could be studied and physical education could explore and test the new capabilities their growing bodies gain at that age.

If you are interested in working in a collaborative, team-focused environment and enjoy thinking outside the box of conventional subject-matter blocks, you might enjoy working within a middle school curriculum.

High School Curriculum

High schools in the U.S. serve our oldest secondary students in grades 9 through 12. Since high schools are rated based on test results (which can affect funding) and college admissions become critical as graduation approaches, high schools place a great deal of emphasis on academic performance.

Therefore, teachers have the opportunity to teach challenging, high level courses for college-bound students who take their studies seriously. At the same time, high schools also offer a wide variety of classes for students of all abilities and interests.

Because of this course variety, your high school curriculum can vary widely as well. As a teacher with a math endorsement, you might teach a class on consumer mathematics for those who struggle with the subject and follow it up with an advanced class in calculus, statistics or trigonometry.

If you have a history or social studies endorsement, you might be asked to teach world history, U.S. history, civics, or even sociology or economics.

Some of the most common required high school curriculum classes in the U.S. include the following:

  • Math: Four years – often includes algebra, geometry and trigonometry
  • English: Four years – covers classic and period literature, drama, research, and writing
  • Science: Three classes – often involves biology, chemistry and physics
  • History: Three classes – U.S. history, world history and civics are common requirements
  • Foreign Language: Two years (sometimes optional) – Spanish, French and German are long-standing offerings, but Japanese, Chinese and Russian are increasingly popular
  • Physical Education: Two years – can often be replaced by approved after-school activities
  • Computers: Two classes – typing, office programs and web standards are just a start
  • Health: One class – nutrition, disease, sexuality and first aid are often covered

Of course, these core classes just scratch the surface of high school offerings. Art, theater, public speaking and academic electives such as marine biology, geology, astronomy, statistics, poetry and psychology, as well as hands-on classes like driver’s training and wood shop all contribute to the wealth of classes you can teach as part of a comprehensive high school curriculum.

Preparation is Crucial

As any conscientious teacher knows, preparation is crucial to a good lesson plan. And the product of a year’s lesson plans is the high school curriculum that you teach.

So research different curricular variations and use all of your secondary curriculum knowledge to plan out which subjects and age-levels you would like to focus on in your career. Many schools offer specific degree programs that lead to specialized teacher certification that can help you get the job you want. For example, you can specialize in teaching science in high school or English in middle school.

Ready to Get Started?

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