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.
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.