Although there's no set national standard and specific classes often vary by state or even district, you'll find that most 10th-graders take roughly the same course load. Whether you're a student yourself, work in the educational environment or are the parent of a rising sophomore, understanding what types of courses 10th-graders can expect is key to proper academic progression.
By the time that a student is in 10th grade, he is typically on a remedial, regular academic or honors track. That said, the specific classes that sophomores must complete may vary depending on their track, skill level and past classes. According to the Common Core State Standards Initiative, high schoolers should take classes that help them prepare for college or a potential career. While the Common Core Standards don't specify a sequence for 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grades, by the sophomore year most students are taking an algebra or geometry -- or combination, integrated math -- class that goes beyond the first level. State and district content standards that dictate specific classes typically end at the conclusion of middle school. Standards for high school are more likely grouped according to major class areas such as algebra. This means that a 10th-grader in one state may take Algebra II, while a 10th-grader in the next state may take Algebra III or an integrated algebra-geometry course.
Looking at the standards that the Common Core Initiative sets forth, students in grade 10 should have the ability to read, understand and analyze literature while determining word meaning, tone, point of view and structure; 10th-graders typically take classes that help them to hone these skills and further explore the English language such as literature or creative writing. Additionally, some schools may allow sophomores to take specialized English classes that focus on a specific topic or genre such as poetry or satire.
High school sophomores are ready to understand more advanced social studies topics than their younger peers. Depending on the state's standards and the district's requirements, a student in grade 10 may take classes that relate to civics, economics or world cultures. For example, the public schools of North Carolina require all 10th-graders to take a civics and economics class. In the state of West Virginia, students must take social studies coursework on citizenship, civics, economics, geography and history.
The specific science class that any 10th-grader takes varies based on the school district, state requirements and the student's level of interest or knowledge. Some schools offer students the choice of physical sciences or biology. These courses are typical of the high school curriculum, and most students must complete at least one class and lab in each area. Some schools or state standards, such as the Ohio Department of Education's standards and model curriculum, consider physical sciences and biology as introductory or basic courses that 9th- and less advanced 10th-graders must take. Chemistry, environmental sciences, geology and physics are courses that some schools may reserve for honors level 10th-grade coursework.