Eighth-Grade Course FAQs

World Languages FAQ

Does Spanish have to be for high school credit?
Yes. If students take 8th grade Spanish they will receive credit and a grade on the transcript for Spanish 1. There is not an option to take the class without getting high school credit. However, because Spanish is an elective, there is an option to take the course as a Pass//No Pass course. This means the student would still get the credit, but the grade would not impact the high school GPA. For this option, see the school counselor.

What are the benefits and/or risks of receiving high school credit for Spanish?
Spanish will count towards the elective credits required to graduate from West Des Moines. It will also allow colleges to see that students have taken the course during high school, along with the grade received. Although West Des Moines does NOT require world language for high school graduation, many colleges require world language as part of their acceptance criteria. The grade received for Spanish will factor into the high school GPA, which may be used when students apply for college scholarships and/or acceptance into college. A poor grade in 8th grade Spanish would mean that a student is beginning high school with a lower GPA than students who did not take Spanish unless the student chooses the pass/no pass option from above.

How many years of a world language do I have to take? What are the benefits and/or risks of starting Spanish in 8th grade?
Students do NOT need to take a world language to graduate from high school. However, many colleges list world language as an entrance requirement. It is difficult to determine how many years of a world language you will need for college because every college is different. The general rule of thumb is that 2 years of any world language should satisfy the entrance requirements for colleges.

In many cases, it is a good idea to plan world language classes during the last years of the student’s high school career, unless a student is planning on taking 4 or more years of the language. Colleges often require a minimum amount of a world language to get in, and additional years of that language during college. It is difficult to retain language skills if they go unused, and many colleges will test to measure the student’s level of mastery. This could mean that a student has to retake world language classes during college if there is a gap between the time the student took the language course and the beginning of college. In most cases, a student with 4 or more years of a world language will not need to take any additional classes in college, and will not have to take a proficiency test.

Deciding on a plan for world language can be difficult, and there is no “right” answer. For example, The University of Iowa requires a minimum of 2 years to get in, and for most majors, two more to graduate from college. A student taking all 4 years in high school would not need to take any while at Iowa. Iowa State requires 2 years to get in, and a third before college graduation. Three years in high school would prevent the student from taking the course during college. UNI does not necessarily require world language to get in, but requires 3 years or either high school or college world language before graduation. On the other hand, Drake does not require any world language during high school or college.

Does West Des Moines offer other world languages?
Spanish is the only world language offered in 8th grade. However, beginning in 9th grade, students can take Spanish, French, German, Mandarin Chinese, or Latin.

If a student is a native Spanish speaker, can he or she test out of Spanish 1?
It is possible for native speakers to test out of Spanish 1.  It is also possible for someone who has a long of experience speaking and using Spanish to test out of Spanish 1. Counselors can help make arrangements for the test, which includes speaking, writing, and listening. Students will NOT receive high school credit for the course, and it will NOT appear on the transcript. However, it will allow student to enroll in Spanish 2 as a 9th grader. Colleges typically look at the transcript for that last completed year of world language. This means that if a student tests out of Spanish 1 and completes the Spanish 2 course, a college will accept this as 2 years of a high school world language.

How do I know if my student is ready for Spanish I?
Since Spanish is a language based course, a good indicator of success is how the student has done in English/Language Arts courses.  This is a high school level course that will have the demands and time commitments similar to other high school courses. Though having some past experience in Spanish can be beneficial, it is not essential for the success in this course.

Advanced Class FAQ

Which advanced classes are available for 8th graders?
Students can elect to take advanced social studies, advanced English, and/or advanced science. Math placement is determined by the course completed in 7th grade.

Do these classes receive high school credit?
Advanced English and advanced social studies do NOT receive high school credit. Advanced science DOES receive high school credit. The grade for the science class will appear on the high school transcript and will be included in the high school GPA. A low grade in 8th grade advanced science will have a negative impact on the high school GPA. There is not an option for advanced science that will prevent the grade from impacting the high school transcript.

It is important to note that 8th grade advanced science is both compacted and advanced. As a compacted class, it combines both 8th and 9th-grade science content into one year. As an advanced class, it goes deeper into the content than both the 8th and 9th-grade science courses. The 8th-grade advanced science class covers much more material in much less time, and the grade impacts the high school transcript.

Can I take advanced classes in 9th grade if I do not take them in 8th grade?
With the exception of the advanced math and science options, students can opt to take an advanced course in 9th grade if they have not taken an advanced course in 8th grade.  Both math and science require a student to take the advanced class in 8th grade as a prerequisite to the advanced class in 9th grade. Students taking advanced 8th-grade science must take advanced biology in 9th grade. Students taking 8th grade advanced English or social studies can opt out of the advanced courses in 9th grade.

Who decides which advanced classes the student will take?
YOU decide if advanced classes are the right choice. There is a spot for parents to sign off on the course selections for students. We strongly encourage you to consider the recommendations of your 7th-grade teachers when making the decision about advanced classes. Students selecting advanced classes also need to complete and submit the form titled Characteristics of Effective Learners that is found in the 8th-grade registration form.

What if I want to go against the teacher recommendation?
Teachers may include their recommendations on the course selection form, but you can change those before turning in the signed sheet with your choices. We strongly encourage you to discuss this with your 7th-grade teachers.

What if I want to move into the advanced math track?
Advanced math works differently than the other advanced courses. Because math is sequential, students must show mastery of the prerequisite material before moving into a different math course. While it is rare to do this between 7th and 8th grade, students may request to test out of 8th-grade pre-algebra by contacting Shane Scott at 633-5056.

If I take a course for high school credit and receive a poor grade, can I retake the course? How will it impact my high school transcript and GPA?
You can elect to retake the course the following year. The higher of the two grades will be factored into the high school GPA. The lower grade will still appear on the transcript, but will not impact the final GPA.

Can students change their decisions about elective choice, advanced classes, and PBLN after the initial registration process in February?
Yes. Students can make changes to their elective decisions until the start of next school year. However, the closer we get to the start of the school year, the more difficult it may be to honor requests due to limitations in class sizes. Late changes may impact the student’s opportunity to take certain electives or advanced choices. The final deadline to move into an advanced course is March 1 but we may be able to make some changes up until the last day of school.  After that, we may not be able to meet your request and will not overfill classes. Late changes to advanced course selection may impact elective choice and may require a student to move onto or off of the team.

How do I know if my student is ready for an advanced class?
There are many factors to consider when deciding on advanced classes, but you should start with the recommendation of the 7th-grade teachers. They may not be able to give you a definitive answer, but they can help you weigh your options.

Students should also ask themselves why they want to take an advanced class. Students who want to take advanced classes in a particular subject area throughout all 4 years of high school will want to start in 8th grade. Students looking to “get a course out of the way,” or who don’t plan in taking 4 years in that subject will often regret taking the advanced course. If the student really enjoys the course and wants to take on a challenge to learn more about the subject matter, then an advanced class might be a great opportunity. It is important to note that students can still take many of the same advanced or AP courses in high school, even if they don’t take advanced classes in 8th grade.

Another important tool that can help with this decision is the form titled Characteristics of Effective Learners. It is required for students and parents to return a completed copy of this along with the registration form. Honest answers on this document and help guide the decision-making process.

Lastly, grades and assessment scores can be helpful in the decision making classes. You can use the following guidelines when considering taking the advanced courses:

  • Past Iowa Assessment Scores
    • All Advanced Courses: Advanced Reading Score (>264 in 6th Grade)
    • Advanced Science:  Advanced Math Score (>257 in 6th Grade)