Only on a couple occasions has this been called to my attention; the most recent incident has caused me to realize that this can become somewhat of a stumbling block for average to high-performing students. The problem is a lack of information about how their coursework will affect class rank and be evaluated by employers and colleges. A student at a large Houston-area was nudged out of the top 10% because her better informed classmates avoided several academic-level courses freshman year and she did not. More recently at a small rural school, a client dropped from number three at the beginning of the year to number nine at the end of the year because of one academic elective that he took and his classmates did not. Now, I am all for students taking courses that interest them no matter what kind of credit is attached to it, but there are ways to accomplish this without losing ground to other students.
I believe that about half the courses in a given school year should be taken above the academic level for a bright, ambitious student. Of course, there are always those students that approach genus-level intellect who want and need a higher level of academic stimulation. As long as the student can regularly be in bed at a somewhat normal hour without obsessing over incomplete homework, additional advanced courses can be a viable option. The system is designed for one size fits all and every student is an individual. It is up to each individual to pick and choose what is best for them and not many 13 year-old students are up to the challenge. If mom and dad have not studied and understand the system, mistakes are all but guaranteed. If college is the goal, waiting until the junior year to begin is two years too late. Get the information you need to make the best course decisions, now.