Senior year English about to get a lot tougher

Test scores, rigor concerns lead to curricular changes

Courtesy of RBV

Rebecca Rusiecki, Editor-in-Chief

When registration for the Junior class begins next week, students may find they have fewer options for English credit. Semester electives such as Debate, Creative Writing, Film Studies and Journalism will no longer count as English credit; instead, they will be counted as non-departmental credit.

These changes will also affect the curricula of semester courses, which will become year long courses. For example, Honors Shakespeare Seminar will become Honors Shakespeare Seminar and Composition. Honors Latin American Lit will combine with World Lit A and B to form World Literature and Composition. Also, the four Contemporary Lit classes currently offered will be combined to form Contemporary Literature, Communication and Critical Thinking. Film Studies will be offered as a semester class, but will no longer count as English credit.

These changes were made after the administration and English department decided that they must do more to prepare students for college. RB’s recent PSAE data in Reading (with 67% of students meeting or exceeding state standards) suggested that the English department needed a greater focus on reading and writing. The department also wanted seniors to take more challenging courses during their last year.

“There was this sense that what we were doing was very disjointed and that the classes [like Shakespeare Seminar] would not really be taken because of the particular class. They were interested in an easier class,” English Department Chair Sarah Johnson said.

Since deciding on these changes, the English department has received a wide range of reactions from students and staff members. Though a number of them are upset about the changes, Johnson believes that it will, in the long run, benefit students.

“Our most recent results show that about 33% of our students are not college ready in reading. That score is from the last quarter of a student’s junior year. This has been a pretty steady number,  showing about 30% of students graduating with unsatisfactory reading and writing skills. That is not something we’re really proud of. So we’re trying to make sure that even if a student hasn’t quite gotten to that benchmark junior year, there is still another year to practice some of those skills,” Johnson said.

These changes will not only affect students, but will also have an impact on teachers. New curricula will be written for the Contemporary Literature, Communication and Critical Thinking course. Johnson also expects to see a drop in enrollment in the remaining semester classes, noting that some of them may not have enough students to run next year.

“They may not run. The thing that I would highlight, though, is that Debate, Creative Writing and Journalism are open to all students in the building. And like in many of our pure elective classes, there may be a wide range of students, from freshmen to seniors, which I think is a really nice thing. I’m hoping they run, but the department is fully aware that they might not run again,” Johnson said.

Registration for the 2014-2015 school year will take place from November 14-26 for juniors, December 4-13 for sophomores, and January 7-17 for freshmen. Students will also have the opportunity to meet with their counselors prior to registration. Despite changes to the English credit options, Johnson notes that much of the curriculum will be similar to previous years.

“This is an attempt to continue to be rigorous and relevant until the very last day of a kid’s senior year. As an English Department, we weren’t proud of the fact that kids were getting an easy way of sliding out our door. So this hopefully an answer to that,” Johnson said.