New state standards will result in changes in courses offered.
The Wisconsin Dells School District is implementing new curriculum standards at the high school, and a high school English teacher said some students will have to work a lot harder while teachers will have to be more serious about assigning homework.
Teachers and school board members discussed the Common Core State Standards at a policy committee meeting Wednesday. The Common Core State Standards were adopted in Wisconsin in 2010, according to the school district’s website and strive to make what students are learning in public schools more uniform across the country.
The Common Core State Standards are being implemented, which according to high school English teacher Michael Michalsky, is a good thing, but will require teachers to step up to the challenge.
“The thing I’ll say about Common Core is I think it’s the most phenomenal thing I’ve worked with since I’ve been here. I’m excited about it. Let’s ramp things up. Let’s go because this gives us a blueprint,” Michalsky said.
As part of meeting Common Core, the high school will drop the following courses: mass media, assisted reading, applied English, honors English, speech, dramatic literature and beginning acting.
Speech will be worked into all the courses. AP Language and Composition, Honors English 9, Honors English 10 and READ 180 will be added.
Dramatic literature and beginning acting will be combined into drama class. Honors English will be removed and an advanced placement course offered.
Students will first need to take British Literature or American Literature before they can take novels.
They’ll have to take English composition before taking creative writing.
Michalsky said students were “taking the path of least resistance to graduate.” But the changes to the course offerings will make them work harder, he said.
He also said the high school will have to assign homework because students are behind and need to catch up.
The high school is starting to implement the new curriculum standards in the English Department, but other departments aren’t as far along as developing a new set of required courses.
Committee member Holly Waterman said the community needs a change in how it thinks about education. She said students should be reading at home, have summer reading lists and have a writing lab on campus. If students aren’t reading at a ninth-grade level when they come to the high school, then they need to go to summer school first, she said.
Michalsky said he thinks too many students are reaching honor roll status when state standardized test scores show poorer performance.
School board President Jesse Weaver attended the meeting, though he is not on the committee. He said when he speaks with Dells graduates, they say they didn’t have home work and that made going from high school to college a big jump.
Waterman pushed for rapid implementation of the curriculum changes.
The Lead 21 program already in place at the elementary schools is part of the Common Core State Standards, and Waterman said that was a hard adjustment. And even when the new curriculum is in place, it takes time for it to be used well, she said.
In an interview in 2010, Shannan Statz, director of curriculum and instruction, introduced the new language curriculum called Lead 21. It allows for online assessments, students to share compositions and peer editing. The district also started the Early Literacy and Star Reading Program, which tests elementary and middle school students more frequently on reading skills so that teachers could better respond to their learning needs.
At the same meeting, Wisconsin Dells High School Principal Randy Kuhnau spoke about proposed changes to graduation requirements given the new curriculum that would take effect for the Class of 2017. He proposed requiring the same number of credits to graduate, but that the emphasis on what to take would change.
The proposed changes in graduation requirements allows for students to take AP classes in science, English, math and social studies, adds a half credit in both science and math, eliminates a half credit for computer applications and career world, and cuts mandatory social studies credits from 3.5 to 3 credits.
Waterman also said students need to take classes in foreign language, and it’s not good that the number of electives are so high.
Kuhnau responded to questioning from Weaver about why it seemed that education in the Dells seemed to be a struggle and why Kuhnau said improvements to grades before high school were needed when Kuhnau was supposed to be working as 6-12 curriculum coordinator.
Kuhnau said the whole job wasn’t on him.
“There’s research that shows what works. It shows what works. So you study past practices and any schools that are successful today based on the data that you’re talking about here will tell you that you look at research, you look at data. It guides you in the decisions that you make. And I think we need to do that as a group of people, look at data. Look at the Common Core....We have to have a sense of urgency and we have to move fast, but we shouldn’t move so quickly as we err and we move so quickly that we are taking one step forward and two steps back,” Kuhnau said.
District Superintendent Terrance Slack said the goal isn’t to achieve certain test scores, but rather to make students prepared for career and college.
The high school is also discussing changing the class schedule from block scheduling, which entails 90-minute classes for students.
In other business, the committee heard an announcement from Slack that he would recommend the full school board get policy updating and web services from NEOLA. The measure will make the district’s policies compatible with state and federal laws.
–The committee met in closed session to discuss student reading data and employee performance.