Westerville News & Public Opinion

School board examines new high school courses

Revising the high school curriculum is the district's last step to meet new state guidelines

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

As the state of Ohio readies for full-scale implementation of new state education standards in the 2014-2015 school year, the Westerville City School District is preparing to align the last pieces of its curriculum with the standards.

The Westerville Board of Education heard the first reading of legislation at its meeting Monday, Dec. 9, that would revamp high school language arts, math, science and social studies courses to prepare students for the new, more rigorous standards.

As the district enters the "home stretch" of its curriculum revamp, which began gradually at the lower grade levels in the 2011-2012 school year, the final, critical pieces of the new curriculum will fall into place, said Superintendent John Kellogg.

The new curriculum will have a major impact on the district, Kellogg said, because in addition to providing students with more difficult, in-depth coursework, it also will prepare students for the state assessments.

Those assessments, to be administered next year, will have an impact on the district's state report-card score and on new teacher and administrator evaluations that also will be required by the state, Kellogg said.

The administration did not bring forward a proposal to purchase new materials to go along with the curriculum changes, because administrators are waiting until the district finishes its strategic planning process to determine how resources should be spent, said district Curriculum and Instruction Services Director Jennifer Knapp.

Under the new standards, high school students will be required to take four units of language arts, Knapp said.

The changes to the individual high school courses will include more complex texts, using text to support writing arguments and an increased focus on informational texts, such as Franklin Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" speech and Martin Luther King's letters from the Birmingham jail, Knapp said.

The goal of the courses will be to increase clear and coherent writing and depth of understanding, Knapp said, and students will work together on shared research projects.

For math, which students also will be required to take four units of in high school, classes again will be more rigorous with an emphasis on strategic thinking to encourage reasoning and sense making, Knapp said.

If the new curriculum is approved, classes will be coordinated from year to year to increase coherence throughout all of high school math.

"Concepts carefully build on each other from grade level to grade level," Knapp said.

If the new curriculum is approved by the board, the existing Functions, Statistics and Trigonometry course would be eliminated, and the district would offer Financial Algebra, which looks at the financial world through a math lens with real-world applications, Knapp said.

Under the new science curriculum, courses would continue to focus on inquiry-based investigation, Knapp said, but there will be more of a focus on cellular processes and statistical analysis. Proper use of English would be integrated into the curriculum.

The environmental science standards would be removed.

For social studies, the district would remove its "global" courses and replace them with separate American History and Modern World History Courses, meaning students would not study American and world perspectives simultaneously.

There will be more of a focus on the Democratic and Industrial revolutions, independence movements and the effects of global interdependence, Knapp said.

Students would use primary and secondary sources to draw conclusions about historical events, Knapp said.