The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 5, 2010

CCHS to offer honors-level English courses to incoming freshmen

Next fall’s incoming freshmen will be offered something new: honors classes in English. The honors English classes will be different from the CP (College Prep) classes by the degree of teacher support, the pace of the class and the sophistication of the material. The Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) English Department discussed the program changes with the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) on February 24.

Director of Teaching and Learning Kathy Codianne explained that over the last three years the English Department has used in-service days, professional development days and work done over the summer to review their curricula at CCHS and curricula used in surrounding Dual County League high schools. They have surveyed the CCHS English teachers in the areas of curriculum, instruction and assessment, essentially mapping the curriculum for consistency and coherency and aligning the curriculum with state and federal standards. As a result, they have identified common texts and projects and they have created common criteria for assessment of analytical writing.

The English Department has identified organization, the ability to revise one’s own written work and getting assignments in on time as the skills needed for self-regulated learning. Students should be developing these skills as they learn to manage their workload, balancing short- and long-term assignments. Students should learn editing and revising skills from comments from the teacher on their papers. Department Chair Rebecca (Bee) Loprete said, “Students need to use feedback for future assignments.” RSC member Pam Gannon told Loprete that the English teachers need to get papers back to students in a timely fashion.

Loprete said she will be doing more supervising, making sure all freshman classes have more equal writing assignments.

Loprete expects 65% of the freshmen to be in the honors level. CCHS will be using the Brookline model. Eighth grade students will fill out a form with parents to determine their placement. Students are asked whether they can write clearly and logically with correct grammar, or whether they need help with organization and grammar. They are asked how well they answer open-ended questions and whether they can do their English homework on time. This is a new process and Loprete said, “We are still finding our way. We’ll work with Guidance for placement problems.”

CCHS scores well on AP Lit test

Gannon commented that parents noted a lack of AP (Advanced Placement) English at CCHS in last year’s parent survey. Principal Peter Badalament pointed out that English teacher Johnny Woodnal is an AP reader working with the College Board. Fifty seniors were invited to take an online course with Woodnal and take the AP Literature Exam this year. Last year, the average score by CCHS students was 4.2 out of a possible 5.

In addition, Badalament wants to encourage more juniors to take the AP Language and Composition Exam if they take Rhetoric in their junior year. English teacher Ingrid Sutter will be taking a teachers’ course on the AP Language and Composition Course this summer so someone in the department has more understanding of that test.

Will changes bring students more stress?

RSC Chair Jan McGinn said, “It seems like a dramatic shift. Did you come to it willingly?” English teacher and freshman coordinator Jenn Greeley said, “Our department was somewhat surprised to see the district goals in September to implement ‘rigor’ and ‘challenge.’ . . . No one had come to us ahead of time and addressed that with us. Honors was not really a direction we saw ourselves going.” She worries that students take honors classes for the wrong reasons. “We encourage students to take a course that speaks to them,” not take a class just because it has an “H” on it. She said ‘rigor’ is associated with ‘honors’ and the staff have been talking about the high level of stress on students. “I see opposing forces at work here. I don’t think the department was totally on board about going to Honors . . . but now we are embracing the change. We will make every effort to serve our students as well as we can.”

Next steps

Greeley said there was still a lot of work to be done. “We do not have an [honors] course defined yet; the curriculum is not written . . . . We need time.” Superintendent Diana Rigby pointed out that English teachers have been differentiating instruction in their classrooms already. She said teachers can use the material they have been teaching to honors students as the core for the new course.

Future goals include reviewing the Sophomore English curriculum using the same process. Also, the high school English Department wants to communicate more effectively with the Concord and Carlisle middle schools. ∆


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