English classes separated by grade in coming years

Madeline Fagen, Assistant News Editor

The 2014-2015 school year will bring great changes in the English department.   In preparation for the Common Core and new English Regents, juniors and seniors will no longer have combined classes.

“Instead of offering electives that are mixed enrollment, we will now have eleventh and twelfth grade electives,” said English teacher Ms. Eileen Mills.  “The goal was not to split the grades up as much as unify instruction for testing purposes.”

Administrators including Principal Mr. Ira Pernick and the assistant principals pitched the idea for this change to the English Department earlier this year.

“Once we started to prepare for the Common Core and the new English Regents we started thinking that having students in eleventh grade English class that were all going to take the same exam would keep the class focused on the same goal,” said Mr. Pernick.  “In addition, the new exam will be given, at least next year, in early June so we discussed how to keep seniors engaged into, and through, June.”

Being more of a mandatory change than a mere suggestion, the department met as a whole to decide which classes would be available to each grade level while trying to offer as much literature and writing variety as possible.  In an attempt to maintain some aspects of the previous program, Shakespeare and Theatre Arts were preserved as multi-grade classes.

“It wasn’t the English department’s decision to do this,” said English department chair Ms. Joan Lisecki.

Several English teachers are unhappy with the change.

“I am not in favor of the change,” said English teacher Ms. Sari  Schulman.  “I think our elective system worked well the way it was with mixed grades.  I’m disappointed that they will be separated.  The juniors and seniors enjoyed being in the same classroom.  They learned and interacted with each other well.”

“As we presented these changes to our junior students, many of us became concerned that it was negatively affecting students who had a plan in place for twelfth grade English,” said Ms. Mills. “For example, students who planned to take American Lit in senior year could no longer do so as it is now an eleventh grade offering.”

Most other Long Island schools have English classes building up to a Regents exam. This change is intended to transition Schreiber’s more open-ended English classes to this format.

“Having a class where all the students end in the same place, like science, math, social studies and all other classes that culminate in a Regents exam. Having all the students preparing for the same exam will allow teachers to make adjustments as needed,” said Mr. Pernick.

However, the English department does not plan on making any major changes to the curriculum.   This raises the question of whether this change will be valuable.

“We don’t teach to the Regents.  We have never really taught to the Regents.  We actually try to teach above it,” said Ms. Lisecki.  “We are not going to spend months and months on test preparation.  Whatever we do in our classes should give you the skills to succeed comfortably on the Regents exam, hopefully the AP exam, and even college.  My hope is always that all kids succeed.  So I don’t think this will change much of what we do.”

Slight changes in curriculum may be necessary due to the Common Core, but because Common Core-style instruction already takes place in English classes, dramatic changes are not needed.  The new guidelines mainly involve being able to close read key passages, which is something done throughout Schreiber.  Possible ways of reaching the goal of this change for better preparation for the English Regents may include more informational instruction in terms of nonfiction.

“Of course we are always looking to upgrade our teaching and empower students with more,” said Ms. Lisecki.

This decision will have various effects on juniors and seniors as they decide their courses for next year.

“I do not believe it’s the best idea because then there aren’t as many options for each year,” said sophomore Tori Finkle.  “I also think it’s interesting to have seniors and juniors in certain classes.”

“I think that this is a beneficial decision for both juniors and seniors,” said junior Zoe Mankes.  “By selecting courses designed for juniors to excel on their Regents exams, they are more inclined to do well.”

The hopes for this change in English courses are that classes can focus on a common goal, allowing teachers to better prepare their students for Regents exams.

“I think the overall impact will be positive for students,” said Mr. Pernick.  “I think as the education world changes, whether we want it to or not, we have to change with it.  I look forward to charting the outcome of this change over the next few years.”

 

Class Changes

 

Junior Electives   

Advanced Composition

Creative Writing

American Literature

Comparative World

Literature

Utopia/Dystopia (Fall Semester Only)

Cultural Conflicts (Spring Semester Only)

English Regents Lab ( Fall)

English Regents Lab (Spring)

 

Junior/Senior Electives 

Shakespeare

Theatre Arts

 

Senior Electives

Business Language & Literature

Communication Arts

Facing History and Ourselves

Film & Literature

Modern Literature

Journalism

Playwriting & Screenwriting

Mythology