If you were at the West HS PTSO meeting last night (report to be posted soon for anyone who was unable to attend — the topic was an update on the SLC initiative by SLC Coordiator Heather Lott), then you know that the question of what 9th and 10th grade science will look like next year and thereafter was left somewhat unanswered. I had the following clarifying email exchange with West HS Principal Ed Holmes today:
I am writing to ask for clarification about your plans for 9th and 10th grade science in the coming years.
Very specifically, there was considerable confusion last night about Chemistry. Will there would be “Chemistry” and “Chemistry in the Community” next year … or not? You and Heather seemed not to be in agreement, and we noticed afterward that the document Heather handed out described 10th grade science as “TBA,” which was confusing, and worrisome.
Also, in response to a parent question, you said there would be Accelerated Biology next year, that there would be “no changes” in science next year. Can we trust that?
All in all, the science situation was left in a bit of a muddle, so I am asking you to please go on record here and make it very, very clear what the plans are for next year and what the plans/hopes/goals are for the years after next.
1) Will there be Accelerated Biology next year, yes or no?
2) If yes, how many sections of Accelerated Biology will there be next year?
3) What will the procedure be for getting into Accelerated Biology for next year?
4) What is your plan for Biology — your vision, your goal, your intention — in the years after next?
5) Will both “Chemistry” and “Chemistry in the Community” be offered next year, as separate classes (i.e., not a blend of the two within the same classroom, somehow) … or not?
6) What is you plan for Chemistry — again, your vision, your ultimate goal, your hope — in the years after that?
Please, Ed, if your plan is to ultimately have only one form of biology offered at the 9th grade level and only one form of chemistry offered at the 10th grade level (with perhaps only what you’re calling an “embedded honors” option available in each course for the brightest and most motivated students) — if that is your vision and what you are working towards — then I ask that you be straight with us about that right now.
P.S. I still feel like we parents have never been given an adequate explanation (empirically supported, not just rhetoric) as to why you refuse to have an honors/accelerated section for each 9th and 10th grade course (i.e., English, science, social studies) per each of the four SLC’s. (I assume that’s how it’s done for math?) A plan like that — combined with efforts to increase the diversity of the students in these honors/accelerated sections — would make a huge difference in how this turns out for West, in the end. Perhaps you could provide an answer to that question now?
In response to your questions regarding next years course selections:
1) Yes, there will be Accelerated Biology.
2) There will be one section of Accelerated Biology.
3) The procedure for getting into Accelerated Biology will be the same
as in years past. There will be an exam given to determine who will be
in the Accelerated Biology class.
4) Next year there will be an honors option embedded in the
traditional biology class for students who opt to take honors level
biology. My plans are to continue with the aforementioned system for
offering Biology at West. I do not foresee a change in what we offer at
5) Yes, both Chemistry and Chemistry in the Community will be offered
as separate classes.
6) At this time I do not foresee a change in the way we offer
chemistry at West.
The courses listed above are found in next years Program of Study book.
The book has gone to print and has been returned to us. I do not plan
to change what we have printed and will be disseminating to the public.
If you are interested in a copy of the 2006 -2007 West High Program of
Study book they are available in Theresa Calderon’s office, Highland
I will most likely be out of town over the next several days on matters
of a personal nature. I will respond to any further questions you might
have upon my return.
Thank you for your continued interest and concern.
Ed Holmes, Principal
West High School
Thank you so much for your speedy reply … and for the clarification. It is much appreciated.
Needless to say, I am happy to hear that you do not foresee any changes in either biology or chemistry in the coming years. (Please correct me if I have misunderstood.)
I am also happy to hear about continued accelerated and honors options in biology and the continuation of the math-rich course in chemistry, all of which are needed by many West students. As I have said many times, I truly believe this is the better course for West to chart in order to insure the school meets its professional and moral responsibility to the full range of students — and to insure that those students who need accelerated and honors options do not leave the West attendance area. It also makes the educational opportunities at West more like those at our other three high schools, a form of equity that is at the heart of the middle school redesign effort.
I will ask you again to please consider offering accelerated and honors classes within each SLC for English and social studies, as well.