With the recent adoption of Standards Based curriculum aligning courses so they demand mastery of material through assessments, grading and instruction, and the integration of an advisory system revisions to next year’s course offerings and curriculum are currently being finalized, putting in motion transformation for next year.
The Arabic program, a course that has been offered for the past two years, will no longer be offered once the current classes conclude the course pathway. A significant decline in student interest in taking Arabic was the tipping point for this decision. “[This] year we did not have Arabic I because we did not have sign ups for it. It seemed the natural progression [to discontinue the course], if students really are not interested in it, then we are not going to continue to offer it. The school is actively looking at other models of learning for languages that would provide a way to keep Arabic at ASL,” Assistant Principal Karen Bonthrone said.
World Languages and Cultures Teacher Ruth McDonough reaffirmed Bonthrone’s sentiments. “It’s not [an] ideological position, no one wants to close the Arabic program, it’s more about numbers, so if the numbers are there [then] there is potential that it could come back.”
McDonough explained that the decline in students’ interest could be due to a few contributing factors in how the course is run. “One thing is that the teacher has changed every year. Now every teacher has been great but if you don’t have that continuous support for the program, recruiting students is difficult,” she said. McDonough believes the remote nature of the program has caused a lack of awareness contributing to the decline in interest.
Ruba Nadar (’17) has been in the Arabic program since its beginning and was surprised to learn about its discontinuation, especially due to the strength of the program this year. “This year has been amazing, lots of growing generally within the language and everyone kind of works well together,” she said.
The Arabic program has piqued Nadar’s interest in both the language and the culture, offering her “a better connection” with the language due to the highly personalized environment, as a result of the small class size.
Ultimately, despite lack of interest this year, Nadar is uncertain about the decision to discontinue the course. “I think this may be the best that it has ever been and I think it should continue,” she said.
Nadar believes pausing the course for a year and then continuing it after interest is re-established is a better solution.
Bonthrone explained that students who come to the High School with a keen interest in the Arabic language and culture may still have opportunity to study it through a substantiated extra curricular program. This may take the form of a nextra curricular Arabic club that would focus on the enrichment of culture and language. The club would not have grades and be accessible to anybody.
While the Arabic program will no longer be offered, a new computer science class is going to be added next year. The current range of computer science classes being offered was deemed unsatisfactory for the rate that some students are progressing. “Because students are doing coding earlier and earlier in the program and a lot of students are coming up through middle school with coding skills, they are often sitting Advanced Placement (AP) [Computer Science] in tenth grade,” Bonthrone said.
To allow students to continue pursuing AP computer science through all four years of High School, there will be a post-AP Computer Science course next year.
Furthermore, Foundations and Character Leadership, a course taken by all freshmen, will no longer be offered, as its curriculum will be encapsulated in the new advisory system. Foundations is a class whose “[main objective is] helping to build leadership skills, helping to create a sense of community within the smaller classes so that all freshmen feel as if they have a place where they are known,” College Counselor Ivan Hauck said, who teaches a foundations class.
Hauck recognizes that having both Foundations and an advisory system would be redundant. “I think there would be so much overlap in those two programs, particularly students would walk away thinking it feels like we are doing a lot of the same things,” he said.
While there would be a significant amount of overlap, Hauck thinks that there are still certain elements of education that will be lost without Foundations. Specifically, Hauck thinks Foundations allows for students to take on leadership positions outside of the school environment, when the classes explore London. “I think those are elements, I would not say will be missing in an advisory program, but I think we are going to need to be creative in how to help introduce those categories into the advisory system,” Hauck said.
Additionally losing the Peer Leadership program is an obstacle with the termination of Foundations. “It is something that none of us want to give up on as educators and so we are definitely mindful in thinking about how we tap into that in other ways; we just don’t know what that looks like yet,” Hauck said.
The English Department will also be modifying the elective classes they offer to Grade 11 and 12 students.
While undoubtedly the changes taking place will alter the school’s academic environment, Bonthrone upholds that the volume of course revision happening for next year is not unusual, but rather, “it is just good professional practice.” In order for the school to stay up to date with new teaching and academic philosophies, she believes the curriculum needs to be reviewed regularly.
Whenever changes are made to the curriculum, they are always being made with good intentions. “We want to offer the best education possible to our students,” Bonthrone said.