A total of 50 courses may be changed for the 2017-18 school year at Evanston Township High School. The District 202 School Board will decide on Dec. 12 whether to approve the addition of 32 new classes, the deletion of five and the modification of 13 at its Nov. 14 meeting. 

Among the courses to change is a sophomore-level English class, which will become more writing intensive and self-directed. A new sophomore civics class will replace 2 Humanities, 2 Humanities Enriched and Modern World History.  Both the English and civics classes are being created not only to fulfill State mandates but also to better prepare students for their last two years of high school and beyond.

“Writing is the most common assessment in college,” said Peter Bavis, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. “It’s also where we find the most persistent gaps in education.” The new English course, which will encourage the development of a writing portfolio and focus on the writing process, “will provide a strong baseline and will better prepare students for their junior and senior years [at ETHS].  It will also be a clear pathway to honors and AP classes,” said Dr. Bavis. Two reading classes, Reading in Science Summer Course and Sophomore Reading, have also been added to help supplement the new English class to “expand” current supports and “acknowledge a need to do more” to help struggling readers.

Board Member Monique Parsons recalled a “lack of writing” when her son was a sophomore at ETHS. The new English course will “encourage students to do better to prepare” for college but will also “heighten their esteem” going into their junior year, she said. 

The addition of the sophomore civics class made it necessary to rework freshman history. Nicole Parker, ETHS History Department Chair, said that the decision was made to keep history a three-year requirement despite adding the full year of civics. To do this, the department, “did some analysis of what District 65 does” in history. By the end of eighth grade, she said, students learn history through the Middle Ages. The decision was made to “revamp” freshman history beginning this year to “allow more time to get through the last 200 years,” she added. This decision will be re-evaluated again in the spring.

While the course was added to fill a State requirement, it also provided an opportunity. The mandate is a “minimum” and allows the department to craft a curriculum “the ETHS way,” said Ms. Parker, “keeping in mind the community” and changing “the perspective from the U.S. to global.” In teaching the development of law, for example, the course will explore Plato, Confucius and others to determine how law and order works in other societies. When discussing voting, teachers can address how South Africans recently gained that right. 

Board member Gretchen Livingston said she is “excited” about the new civics class and that “a week after an election, it seems like a particularly good idea.”

Other New Course Highlights

The World Language Department is extending American Sign Language to a fourth year. The current three-year offering is the third most popular language course at ETHS.  Introduction to Fashion will provide students with both a history of fashion and hands-on fashion-design experience. Oakton Math 140 is a dual credit class with Oakton Community College to include College Algebra. 

In science, a biotechnology summer school course is being developed in conjunction with the Office of STEM Educational Partnerships at Northwestern.  A forensics course will also be offered. 

New fine arts courses include 1 Piano and Jazz Ensemble (early bird). 

Course Revisions

Many of the revisions are “title changes made to clarify course sequences and pathways,” said Dr. Bavis.  Others “broaden student participation, integrate more lab experiences, and respond to state requirements.”  Introduction to Programming will be updated to a cloud-based platform and will integrate programing in Javascript. Manufacturing Engineering will be revised to include FIRST Robotics.  

Course Deletions

Aside from the three history classes that are being cut to make way for the new civics and restructured freshman offering, the Career and Technical Education Department’s Community Service class, which has not run in eight years, has been cut, as has Seminar in Western Music.

“This plan seems to be well researched and planned; the result of a good process,” said Board Member Mark Metz. “Most importantly, it guarantees all students have access to the best curriculum, which has not always been the case in the sophomore year.” The course changes, “fit in with our general direction to ramp up rigor and fit in with equity goals and having high expectations of all students. This is great news.”