According to the November, 2005, report by SLC Evaluator Bruce King, the overriding motivation for the implementation of West’s English 10 core curriculum (indeed, the overriding motivation for the implementation of the entire 9th and 10th grade core curriculum) was to reduce the achievement gap. As described in the report, some groups of West students were performing more poorly in English than were other groups of West students. Poor performance was defined as:
- not electing to take the more rigorous English electives offered at West during 11th and 12th grade and
- failing one or more English classes.
The current West 10th graders — the first class to take English 10 — has almost finished two semesters of the new course. As well, they registered for their 11th grade courses several weeks ago. Seems to me it’s about time to take a look at the early data.
I would like to know what English courses the current 500 or so West sophomores signed up for for next year and if the distribution of their course selections — broken down by student groups — looks significantly different from that of previous 10th grade classes? When final grades come out later this month, I would also like to know what the impact of the first two semesters of English 10 has been on the achievement gap as defined by the “grade earned” criterion.
Thinking about the need to evaluate the impact of English 10 brings to mind the absence of data on English 9 that became so glaringly apparent last year. [English 9 — like English 10, a core curriculum delivered in completely heterogeneous classes — has been in place at West for several years. And yet, according to Mr. King’s report, it is not clear if English 9 has done anything to reduce the achievement gap in English among West students. (More precisely, according to email with Mr. King and others after the SLC report was made public, it is not clear that the impact of English 9 on the achievement gap at West has even been empirically evaluated. Readers may recall that some of us tried valiantly to get the English 10 initiative put off, so that the effect of English 9 could be thoroughly evaluated. Unfortunately, we failed.)] I would like to know what has been done this year to evaluate the impact of English 9 on the gap in achievement between different groups of West HS students.
Bruce (King), Heather (Lott), Ed (Holmes) and Art (Rainwater), I do hope you will soon “show us the data,” as they say, for West’s English 9 and English 10. And BOE, I do hope you will insist on seeing these data asap.
While we’re at it, what do the before-and-after data look like for Memorial’s 9th grade core curriculum? (In contrast to West, Memorial implemented only a 9th grade core curriculum. TAG and Honors classes still begin in 10th grade, as does access to Memorial’s 17 AP classes.)
With the District in the process of applying for a federal grant that may well result in the spread of the West model to the other three comprehensive high schools, we should all be interested in these data.
So should officials in the Department of Education.