High School Curriculum Review Recommendations | News
WILMINGTON — The Wilmington School Board finally received recommendations from the high school’s curriculum review committee at its meeting last Wednesday night.
Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand began the presentation, stating that the committee’s goal was to ensure that its current curriculum and course offerings align with a graduate’s vision.
He wanted to thank everyone who participated in the program review. As for their recommendations, he said there would be some minor adjustments and some would need school committee approval. He also set the date for the committee’s vote on those recommendations for February 16.
Mia Parviainen, English Program Team Leader, offered two ideas for new English offerings: seminars or a universal capstone project. Their preference would be the seminar option, but they would pursue the capstone project if the seminars didn’t work out.
Some of the topics they would consider for seminars would be Journalism, Shakespeare, War and Literature, Memoirs and Creative Non-Fiction, and Horror, Crime and Mystery. She said they would have focus groups to ask students what topics they would like to hear and then be able to identify a viable lesson format and options.
She also mentioned that staff in the English department have already expressed interest and investment in many of the topics they are considering, so she does not anticipate needing additional staff.
Math CTL MaryBeth Valuk then discussed changes to the math curriculum. Their first priority would be to eliminate the integrated math program. She explained that this track keeps students who don’t go into the honors track out of grade 7 in college prep courses. Their only way out is to double their math lessons if they want to qualify later.
The department would also like to offer more courses in computer science and computer programming, as well as a course in financial algebra, as electives.
Jay Samaha, a school board member, said he liked the idea of not ranking students solely in honors or college readiness. Valuk emphasized that they want students to succeed and be challenged.
David Ragsdale asked if there were any teachers currently employed in secondary school qualified to teach computer programming.
“Whether we add someone, I don’t know if that’s necessarily an option right now,” Valuk replied.
Instead, she suggested the problem could be solved with training and help from the College Board.
Science CTL Julie Kim then proposed eliminating the choice for 9th graders between physical science and biology. Instead, all 9th graders would take biology, all 10th graders would take chemistry, and 11th graders could choose between physics, physical science and other electives.
“Occasionally [students’] math skills are not up to snuff when it comes to physical science,” she said.
It would also give students a better chance of passing an MCAS in science: MCAS in biology in grade 9 (and a retest later that year), MCAS in chemistry in grade 10, and MCAS in physical science in grade 11.
They would also introduce AP Physics 2 and Marine Science. She said they had plenty of staff to cover all the biology and marine science classes, but someone would need to be trained to teach AP Physics 2. When the committee asked her if she expected that student interest in these new courses continues, Kim said. they might as well offer the courses and see what the students choose.
In social studies, WHS principal Linda Peters mentioned that she would introduce a third year of US history in a global perspective for 11th graders who just took US history 1 then 2. Right now they’re moving up to world history in first grade. The new electives they would offer would focus on mental health.
Carlos-Luis Brown, CTL Foreign Language, has announced plans to begin offering Specialized Italian 1 and Specialized French 1 to students who want to start a new language once in high school. Beyond that, they would look to realign courses between middle school and high school based on skills, but they would need more time to create those pathways.
He said they believe it will keep more children engaged and involved in their language of choice.
They would also consider making the foreign language a 2-year graduation requirement, like all but two other districts in the state. Brown reported that 70-80% of students take three years of foreign language in high school. The committee asked how special education students would meet this requirement, and Brown replied that they could request a waiver.
After that, Deputy Director Christopher Phillips spoke about his proposed changes to Business, Family and IT. This would mainly involve renaming classes, creating classes where students could obtain Google or Microsoft certifications, and continuing articulation with Middlesex Community College. They would also look to add more real-skills courses like life management skills and technology courses like web design and computer programming.
Perhaps part of their intention to rename classes and create tech offerings is to entice more students to stay in the district instead of going to Shawsheen Tech.
Peters returned to visual arts and introduced 2D and 3D AP design along with basic courses in digital media and 2D/3D design.
“It would allow students to experiment with different mediums before deciding which higher-level arts course they would like to take,” she continued.
For visual and performing arts, Anita DiLullo listed non-performance-based lesson ideas like guitar and ukulele, piano and keyboard, music production and songwriting. Given their staff’s current schedule, she said they would take more time to flesh out these ideas and think about the graduation requirement.
In health and physical education, Laura Stinson explained that they would be grouping students by age instead of 9th with 11th and 10th with 12th grade. They would also consider designing lesson units in areas such as fitness, yoga and dance, and lifelong sports.
Molly Dickerson spoke about the potential changes to the GPA scale and class ranking, where they would add points on the 4.0 scale and move to a decile rank for students below the top 10.
Chair Jenn Bryson asked if this particular proposal could come back for further explanation.
Brand reminded the committee that the staff had sought its approval for seminars, GPA and class ranking changes, and the creation of graduation requirements for visual and performing arts and world language.