Seven new courses will be added at Evanston Township High School for the 2016-17 school year, including courses on African American history, Chicano history, and an engineering course aimed at increasing female participation in so-called STEM classes, that is, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The District 202 School Board approved the development of the new courses, the revision of 33 existing classes, and the deletion of four others at its Dec. 14 meeting.
Pete Bavis, District 202 assistant superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, provided the Board with highlights of some of the new courses. The Project Lead the Way Introduction to Engineering Design course is specifically for self-identified female students. The hope is that a female-only class will provide a more comfortable learning environment for young students and increase female participation in more advanced engineering/STEM courses.
Niles Township High School has had this course for several years, said Dr. Bavis, and has seen positive outcomes. The history department is “aggressively pursuing” dual-credit opportunities with Northeastern University for History of African Americans to 1877 and History of African Americans Since 1877 and for the Chicano Movement courses.
ETHS does not currently have a class on Latino/Chicano history and culture. Both courses would be electives for juniors and seniors and would be developed only if dual-credit opportunity is created, Dr. Bavis said.
Another new course, College Algebra, is a partnership with Oakton Community College designed to “answer the challenge” of students who are placed in developmental math in college, Dr. Bavis said. This class is aimed at students who “get stuck in the cycle” of remedial math and help them earn college credit at Oakton, he added.
PE Wellness is a blender-course that integrates elements of “Fusion Fitness, Competitive Sports, Advanced Strength and Healthy Lifestyle” and will be offered as both mixed and self-identified female sections.
“Whole brain engineering” will be the approach to the new STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) Design Thinking and Innovation course. It will be a “trans-disciplinary experience where students approach global/local problems from the various STEAM lenses,” Dr. Bavis said.
Northwestern University Dean of Engineering Julio Ottino “is on board” and will help develop the course, which, Dr. Bavis said, will be “very expensive” and will require “external support.” A bilingual Physical Science course is meant for the incoming English Language Learner population, especially those with limited English proficiency.
Many of the 33 course revisions approved are “title changes made to clarify course sequences and pathways,” according to Dr. Bavis’s report. “Additional course revisions are recommended to broaden student participation, integrate more lab and fieldwork experiences, and to align to the NCAA Clearinghouse,” the report said. For example, the Information Technology Internship will be revised to include a co-taught section with the ETHS special education department.
Students will rotate between providing ChromeZone support and inquiry-based study. The Environmental Science AP class will go from a seven-period-a-week course to 10, “to integrate more field and laboratory work into the course.” “The students pushed for this,” said Dr. Bavis. English survey courses will be revised to meet NCAA Clearinghouse guidelines that will “benefit our student athletes who need to make up graduation requirements in English.”
The four deleted classes are all in the math department. They are 1 Algebra Honors, 1 Algebra Double Period, and two semesters of Empirical Geometry. The classes are being deleted because they have not been taught in the last few years, according to Dr.Bavis’s report.
Board discussion focused primarily on the process of creating, revising, and deleting courses. There are five steps involved in changing course offerings, said Dr. Bavis. Initially, teachers work with department chairs to develop recommendations. Next, department chairs, the associate principal of Instruction and Literacy, and the assistant superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction review the recommendations, consider their fiscal impact and how the change will affect the school overall.
Then Board members, teachers, and staff thoroughly review each recommendation and discuss its merits at a Curriculum Forum. The Board then votes on each proposal. The courses voted in are developed over the remainder of the school year and over the summer, and then are added to the next year’s curriculum.
Student Board Representative Camille Allen asked whether students were involved in the process. Dr. Bavis said “yes,” mentioning that a few students have shown up at the Curriculum Forum over the year, but conceded that ETHS “could do a better job with that.”
Board Member Jonathan Baum said there was discussion at the Curriculum Forum about the definition of honors courses. “We don’t have a coherent philosophy about what honors is,” he said. “The reason that matters is because a college admissions officer looking at an ETHS transcript needs to know exactly what the ‘H’ after the course title means.”
The three levels of honors, Mr. Baum said, all have different requirements. Straight honors are “harder courses,” he said. Earned honors is based on an assessment; mixed honors is based on performance; and the newly proposed history classes say determining honors is still being discussed, said Mr. Baum. He asked that a full discussion of the topic be held in February or March. Board President Pat Savage-Williams said she would “look at the timing and gather adequate information” to have that discussion.
Board member Anne Sills, who attended the Curriculum Forum for the first time this year, said the process is one that “takes some time and is very flexible; everyone comes in with their ideas. I see great movement forward with all of this,” she added.