Questions About West’s Proposed One 10th Grade English Class

Below is the list of questions about 10th grade English that were sent to West Principal Ed Holmes, West English Chair Keesia Hyzer, and Assistant Superintendent Pam Nash (who will be attending the meeting).  We explained — again — that our goals in sending them questions before the meeting are to give them time to prepare answers, minimize “surprises” at the meeting, and insure that all of our questions are answered.  They are aware that we are posting the questions to this list serve and that many parents in attendance next Monday night will know that these questions have been asked of them.  We have asked Mr. Holmes to consider publishing our questions and the school’s answers to them in the next issue of the Regent Reporter (much as Mr. Rathert did with my questions about the SLC initiative a year-and-a-half ago), in order that parents who are not able to attend the meeting next week can nevertheless be fully informed.  We also included a few questions about the research on ability grouping and the SLC initiative, more generally, but made it clear that we did not necessarily expect them to be addressed next week.
We hope to see a lot of you at the meeting (7:00 p.m. in the West LMC).  Feel free to bring along any additional questions you feel we have overlooked.

Questions about 10th grade English at West HS

  1. What are the West HS data that indicate there is a problem with the current system for 10th grade English?
  2. What are the data that suggest the solution being proposed (i.e., a standardized, homogeneous curriculum delivered in completely heterogeneous classes) will fix the problem?  (Are there empirical studies you can tell us about?)
  3. What are the data that indicate all students’ educational needs will be well served by the proposed solution?  (Again, are there empirical studies you can tell us about?)
  4. What are the data that indicate no students will be harmed or poorly served by the proposed solution?  (And again — any empirical studies?)
  5. If the 10th grade English core is implemented, will some English electives be dropped from the list of course offerings?  If so, which ones?
  6. Will advanced students be allowed to “test out” or be “teacher-recommended out” of the 10th grade English core?  If so, when would this happen?  (When they register for their 10th grade classes?  At the end of 9th grade?  At the beginning of 10th grade? In between semesters in 10th grade?  Some or all of these times?)
  7. Will you extend this option to advanced 9th graders and allow them to “test out” or be “teacher-recommended out” of 9th grade English?  (It is our understanding that this used to be allowed.)
  8. Would you consider keeping the current system in place  and adding the new curriculum as an additional elective for those students for whom it is a good educational match?
  9. Will the grant be jeopardized or lost if you do not implement a homogeneous 10th grade English core?  (If you are not sure, would you be willing to check into it and get back to us?)
  10. We fear that the plan to offer an honors designation in 10th grade English that requires two lunchtime meetings per week is likely doomed to failure for the following reasons: a) it seems highly unlikely that students who have just endured a year of required “freshman resource time” during their lunch hour will be willing to give up two-fifths of their hard-earned midday freedom as sophomores; b) the plan puts having an honors distinction (which is really not the point — having an appropriately challenging curriculum and the opportunity to learn with similar-ability peers is the point) in direct competition with participation in clubs and other activities that meet during lunchtime; c) the plan forces students to choose between more academics and social time or “down” time.  Because so many reasons for students not to choose the honors option are being built into the plan, we feel the plan is likely to fail and that you will then use that as justification for discontinuing the option due to “lack of interest.”  Would you please comment on our concerns?  What are your thoughts about the potential success or failure of the proposed honors designation, as it is currently defined?
  11. Who conceived of the proposal to restructure sophomore English by eliminating electives and implementing a standardized curriculum to be delivered in heterogeneous classrooms (i.e., what are their names, please)?
  12. Were District TAG staff included or consulted in the development of this proposal?
  13. Who is developing the 10th grade English core curriculum (again, what are their names, please)?
  14. Were District TAG staff included or consulted in the development of the new curriculum?
  15. What is the process the group is using to develop the English 10 core curriculum?