A very demanding curriculm....

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Brendan, Aug 9, 2011.

  1. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Aug 9, 2011

    So I'm back into the swing of things at my new school. Even though I am the principal many decisions are by the Board of Trustees, such as our EXTREMELY demanding curriculum. Our school is 6-12. Here's a brief overview...

    History/Social Studies:
    Social Studies 6: American History I
    Social Studies 7: American History II
    Social Studies 8: Ancient Civilizations
    Social Studies 9: AP European History (from the Renaissance on)
    Social Studies 10: AP US History
    Social Studies 11: AP Government (US and World Politics Combo)
    Social Studies 12: Electives (including Law, Mock Trial, AP Pysch, AP Econ, AP World which change based upon enrollment each year )

    English 6-10: Is basic English, but Freshman have an additional writing class that can be taught by any other department.
    English 11: AP English Language
    English 12: AP English Literature

    Science 6: Earth Science
    Science 7: Physical Science
    Science 8: Biology/Life Science
    Science 9: AP Biology (good luck teaching Freshman that)
    Science 10: Chemistry Honors or Physics Honors
    Science 11: AP Chemistry or AP Physics
    Science 12: Electives (Anatomy, Environmental Science, etc.)

    Math 6: Pre-Algebra
    Math 7: Algebra I
    Math 8: Geometry
    Math 9: Algebra II
    Math 10: Pre-Calculus
    Math 11: AP Calculus AB
    Math 12: AP Calculus BC or AP Statistics

    Spanish/French 6: Spanish/French I
    Spanish/French 7: Spanish/French I
    Spanish/French 8: Spanish/French II
    Spanish/French 9: Spanish/French III
    Spanish/French 10: Spanish/French IV
    Spanish 11: AP Spanish/French Language
    Spanish 12: AP Spanish/French Literature

    I can only really speak about the difficulty of the Social Studies Curriculum and it's going to be hard. The Freshman will be doing a lot of writing. Lots and lots. Now the Senior Government class is going to be hard: it's 2 separate courses combined into one. I'm teaching that and I've never taught World Government before, so I am doing my syllabus for that now.

    Our kids are top in the state, but I still really hope that they can handle all of this! I'm going to make sure that we add at least another track for each subject.
     
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  3. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Wow!

    I'm in a college prep school, and our kids are bright! But I can tell you that lots of them would struggle with those academic requirements.

    Your faculty is going to need lots of support and guidance.
     
  4. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Aug 9, 2011

    That is definitely demanding. I love that you are looking at adding another track.
     
  5. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    We are considered "advanced and gifted" so a lot of the funding we receive is dependent on an advanced curriculum. I think our Math Curriculum will be revised slightly for the next year. I'm really not sure how 7th graders will do with Algebra I, but we'll see.
     
  6. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Aug 9, 2011

    That is demanding!! I love how you have 4 years of a language!
     
  7. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    I'm curious why Earth Science is taught before Physical Science. As an Earth Science teacher and a geoscientist, that makes me cringe a bit. Earth Science is pretty easy to water down, but teaching it with any sort of rigor depends on students already having a reasonable knowledge of basic chemistry and physics topics.

    I'm not criticizing--genuinely curious as to the rationale behind the structuring.
     
  8. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Molly, let me check back with you, I'm not really sure why this is the type of sequencing. I'm pretty sure this is the way it is done across the state of Massachusetts. I welcome your criticism it makes me think. Science is not my thing...I took a total of 2 science classes in my college career (I took basic chemistry and astronomy eons ago).
     
  9. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Aug 9, 2011

    I'm a little concerned about your math curriculum. I'm with Alice on that one, but I do have to say a huge thank you for putting Calculus AB before Statistics. If I ran the world, nobody would ever take a statistics course without differential calculus and an introduction to integration. Well, that's not true. The survey courses meant for psychology-type majors are an exception. (Of course, I would also make everybody take linear algebra before multi-variable calculus, but I digress).
     
  10. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I agree mm.

    I think you're going to really have to be on top of things Brendan. The easiest way to handle a tough curriculum is to simply water it down beyond recognition.

    I know you don't do Regents in MA, but I think they're a pretty good gauge of the material I would want taught. Could you consider using old exams at some point?
    http://www.nysedregents.org/
    (For math, you want Math 9, Math 10 and Math 11, NOT Sequential, Math A/B, or "Algebra, Geometry or Trig".... speaking of watered down.)
     
  11. KatherineParr

    KatherineParr Comrade

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    Aug 9, 2011

    Brendan, it's impressively ambitious. I'd love my son to attend your school. IMO, social studies curricula don't push hard enough. Students can do much more than we ask of them, and I love to see a school offer students a mountain to climb.
     
  12. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Well, I'll take that as a compliment. Maybe give us a trial year first to see how kids perform. I really hope they come out on top and are able to go into college with credits that will save them time and money. We were actually looking into dual-credit courses, but many schools won't except dual credit, where nearly all will accept AP.
     
  13. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    I'm probably going to insist on a second track being developed, that is a tad lower.
     
  14. tchr4evr

    tchr4evr Companion

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    Aug 10, 2011

    Love it

    I think your curriculum is great, but . . .

    Not every kid, even the brightest, can do AP across the board. So, you may end up with some strugglers in one subject, which can be frustrating. Also, think of the amount of prep time needed to take two or three AP courses, or even four, in a year. Again, you may be setting some of these kids for premature grey hair.

    Also, are all your non-AP teachers preparing kids for the AP courses? That's the problem we have at my school. Those teachers who teach honors do absolutely nothing to prepare kids for AP, so when they get there, they are basically thrown to the wolves. It severely affects our scores.

    Definitely add a lower track.
     
  15. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Aug 10, 2011

    Brendan, would there be any way a kid could be on one track, say for math and science, and another for English, History and foreign language?? Or would that make for a scheduling nightmare, particularly this late in the summer?
     
  16. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    Man, I went to a residential school specially for gifted students (one of those public elites) and that curriculum would have killed me in high school. I simply would not have had enough hours in the day to get the work done, and do any extracurriculars, and I was involved in several: MAO, JCL, Habitat for Humanity, Amnesty International, scouting, theater, choir, church stuff, etc. (I did have classmates who would have thrived with that schedule, and chose similar schedules at my school, though we didn't offer classes designated as "AP" because they were all taught at the college level.) I'm assuming that they aren't just taking core classes and will also need to take other things, like art, music, PE, computers, etc. I worry that they will not have time to take a variety of electives and really learn what they want to be, and find ways they may shine.

    I would not have shined with AP Calculus (though I did ok with regular calculus 1 and 2) but I did shine senior year with two independent studies: one in broadcast journalism and one in film production. I also shined in five music classes my senior year. I did not shine as much in physics, but I did okay, and I was glad they offered it at a more basic level than AP.

    One of my pet peeves in gifted education is when schools make gifted students take AP classes. That's not best educational practices. Gifted students, with IEPs marking them as such may do quite well in a high-pressure AP environment. Many of them will not, as they just aren't wired that way. I hate the school where I teach now designates all the gifted courses as "GT/AP" because they want colleges to see that AP label. Most of the kids don't even take the AP test, and the top two colleges students from where I teach attend don't accept AP credits.

    Wow, that ended up longer than I realized. I didn't realize how passionately I felt about this. Please give your students room to shine and room to grow, and don't try to force them to all fit unto the same mold. Gifted education is not one size fits all!
     
  17. KatherineParr

    KatherineParr Comrade

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    Aug 10, 2011

    Well, I think Tchr4ever and Celia have a point about the expectation of excellence in every area. I went to a school like Celia's, and while I rocked some things others rocked me. So allowing students to opt into something other than AP Calc would be a good idea.

    That said, I routinely have students taking 3-4 APs and they do fine. Your students are self-selected and identified through testing (I presume) and are intellectually capable of that work. They are looking for a challenge and you are offering it.

    I think there's a dialog in education that goes like this:
    A: "We need some way to offer gifted students a greater challenge." or "We need greater rigor in all secondary courses."
    B: "OK, here's a plan."
    A: "OH NO! That's way too hard."

    Always. It was all over this board last fall (remember "dumbing down the curriculum" vs. the thread on how you treat high school students?).

    So there's clearly some kind of balance you have to strike. And I guess I think you'll find that balance over time. But MA has an outstanding public education system so if you have gathered talented students they will represent a very high level of achievement and natural aptitude. I say try it and see.
     
  18. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    I didn't think that coursework would be too hard for the students. I could have done it. It would have sucked, but I could have done it. It is such a more valuable experience to let students find out what their true talents are, and requiring them to take all AP courses does not give them much time left over to do that. I'm not saying to make it easy, I'm saying to challenge them in the way they need to be challenged. Sometimes the structure of a traditional AP course is not a good fit for a gifted child. I see it all the time with highly gifted students at my school struggling with AP because either they don't have the background skills needed, or they just aren't strong in that area.
     
  19. MLB711

    MLB711 Comrade

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    Aug 10, 2011

    Well-said.
     
  20. KatherineParr

    KatherineParr Comrade

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    I agree, Celia. That's why I said ideally you could let them opt in to something else.

    For example, at my current school students can choose a mathematics course based on consumer economics (taxation, interest, banking, retirement, etc.). It's very rigorous, but it's also extremely practical for students who are very bright but who are primarily focused on the humanities. They enjoy it, too, because the application value is *obvious*. Their parents love it because it reassures them that their soon-to-be-adult offspring will enter the workforce with a clue.

    In my case, I opted for non-Euclidean geometry and stats instead of advanced calculus after I finished the first year of calc. It suited me better and that stats course prepared me for college (math, but also psych and soc relied heavily on that kind of material).

    Brendan, is there room for flexibility?
     
  21. chemteach55

    chemteach55 Connoisseur

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    I have taught AP Biology at a freshman level before. It is hard but not impossible because the math skills in AP Biology are not too bad. I now teach AP Bio at the 11th grade level so I simply expect more from them.
     
  22. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    There will be flexibility by the time I am done with the schedule. It's a bit late in the summer to start creating track, after track withing each department, but in Math in particular, I'm going to push for a second track.

    Even as principal, not everything is left up to me. I have a board of trustees who have A LOT more power than I do. This is their school with their mission statement and goals, I'm just expected to run it. Our students have a choice in coming to this school. I'm not saying there's not room for improvement, but our kids come to the school knowing that this is what the curriculum will be. They're highly motivated.

    I understand the whole being talented in some subjects and not in others. I remembering struggling immensely in Math and Science Honors courses in High School. Not really, Science, but Math I really struggled in. Taking Geometry as a a Freshman was my WORST nightmare.
     
  23. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Aug 10, 2011

    Brendan, those kids and your faculty are very lucky to have you looking out for their best interests!!
     

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