EDITORIALS

New curriculum developed for G-A high school

PAT FRIDGEN

Teaching to the test appears to be the hallmark of a new curriculum plan being proposed for the Greencastle-Antrim High School.

Due to high school's placement on the warning list for the latest round of state-mandated (PSSA) math tests, and the pending approval of Keystone Exams for Pennsylvania schools, principal Ed Rife shared with the school board Feb. 2 proposed changes to the 2012-2013 Program of Studies. He presented the curriculum changes drawn up by the School Improvement Team, consisting of himself, assistant principal Jerry Crable, math teachers Susan Kline and Adrian Martin, and English teachers Marci Stover and Brandon Solomon. The committee began its task in September.

The changes were designed to improve test scores, prepare students for life after graduation, and stay within budget restrictions.

The math department will eliminate Integrated Math courses, which carried a certain stigma for students. Instead, struggling students will take Elements of Algebra, followed by Algebra I in ninth-grade. The next year they will take Elements of Geometry and Geometry. In both cases, students would be ready for the spring Keystone Exams.

Statistics will be added for upper level students, a subject more colleges are requiring. "We've looked at this for a long time," said Rife, "but were never able to offer before. AP Statistics could be offered for college credit. Hagerstown Community College is excited about this."

HCC has adjunct professors teaching in the high school, so the AP class would be a dual-enrollment course.

Rife recommended the position left vacant by a retiring Family Consumer Science teacher be filled with a math teacher in order to add the courses. That would leave the FCS department short of only one elective, Traditions. The key components of the study of family, cooking and sewing could be blended into the Independent Living class. And ninth-graders would not be required to take the FCS/Power Tech/Art course.

Other changes

Rife reported on a change in the technology education department, as well. Architecture II will be added as an elective if the changes are approved by the school board. It incorporated principles of science, technology, engineering and math, a push encouraged by many colleges.

"This will build on the fundamentals," he said. "It will be an ideal course for anyone interested in a career in architecture or engineering."

Tech teacher Tim Hill was present, and noted engineering was the foundation of every company. The students would be drawing plans from which a house could be built.

In the art department, a new elective will be Exploring the Visual Arts, which fosters self-expression and creative problem solving, and meets the requirement for some colleges.

Changes in the English department include English 10 Honors for high level students, with teacher recommendation; American Literature as the third required course; and an American Lit honors course.

For the underperforming students, English Enrichment 9 and English 9 will take care of both semesters. They would be ready for the composition portion of the Keystones. They would take the literature section of the test after the 10th-grade year.

In order to keep current staffing level, Essentials of English I and II will be dropped, as well as African-American Literature. The key aspects of the latter would be incorporated into other courses.

The changes also fit in with the pending Pennsylvania educational initiative, Common Core.

A benefit for seniors

Rife also proposed a new concept, Earned Senior Privilege. It will be available to senior students needing less than eight credits to meet graduation requirements, who had also met proficiency status on standardized tests. With an approved application, they would be allowed flexibility in attendance.

"Students can come in, take the classes they need, and leave for the day," said Rife. "We wouldn't force them to take study hall."

Currently, 200 seniors spend part of their day in study hall. The privilege would reduce the number of students in the room, lower the ramifications of increased class size, motivate students to do well on tests, and let deserving seniors use the time to reach post-graduation goals. Anyone participating in sports, clubs or school activities would have to take at least two credits per semester, and if grades or attendance dropped, they would be brought back into the school for the full day.

Rife estimated up to 70 students would have been eligible for the program this year, and it could climb if the next groups are motivated. The class size of this year's juniors and sophomores is about 260.

Superintendent Dr. C. Gregory Hoover summarized the plans. "This has been a challenge. They came up with some great ideas."