Looking Ahead: Curriculum Expansion at the Middle School Level
Beginning with the seventh-grade class of 2017, the Central High School District has developed programs and options to best meet the varied interests, skills and needs of our incoming students. Innovative curriculums have been written, new instructional programs will be introduced, and expanded enrichment opportunities will be made available.
School administrators have employed multiple strategies to share information about the new programs with parents and have been working to develop each student’s personalized instructional plan.
Beginning with the 2017-18 school year, the district will offer two levels of acceleration in math for incoming seventh-graders. When a child accelerates in math, he or she is set on a learning course to take the ninth-grade Algebra 1 Regents in June of the eighth-grade.
In October, the math department chairs presented information to parents of current sixth-graders about the three options in math. Parents were encouraged to complete a Parent Input Form, which included the family’s input on the appropriate math course, so that information about their child’s academic interests could be gathered. The curricular presentations were also available for parents to review on the district’s website to help inform them as they made decisions about which instructional option was right for their child.
The three options are:
• Option 1: This accelerated option compacts three years into two and topics will be condensed in the first year (grade 7). Students have one period of math every day, and will take the Algebra Regents in grade 8. Instruction will be advanced at a rigorous pace.
• Option 2: This accelerated option also compacts three years into two, but students have an additional period of math instruction every other day in seventh and eighth grade. Topics will not be condensed, so every period will be an instructional period. Students will take the Algebra 1 Regents in grade 8.
• Option 3: This non-accelerated pathway follows the regular middle school sequence of Math 7 and Math 8. Students will remain on grade level and will have one period of math instruction in grades 7 and 8. Students will take the Algebra 1 Regents at the end of grade 9. Those in need of academic assistance in math may qualify for an additional math support class so that they are able to stay on grade level.
“For a student to feel confident in a math class, both the pace and the level of the content must be a good fit for them,” explained James Morris, mathematics department chair. “Decisions about which option is best should be a joint decision based on the partnership between the school and the family.”
Enrichment Opportunities in Technology and Family and Consumer Science
In an effort to embrace advancements in modern commerce and technology, the district is introducing two new enrichment courses in the seventh-grade that will connect 21st century skills in computer science with the entrepreneurial spirit of highly creative and motivated learners. Creative Coding and Introduction to Entrepreneurship classes will be offered on a semester-long basis.
“More and more of our students come to us as digital natives, which gives us the opportunity to plan curriculum that will take them to the next level as technology developers,” said Robert Soel, district STEAM director. “A seventh-grade coding class is the perfect place to start. Providing them with the opportunity to learn to code will enable them to design websites, create computer games, invent new apps and apply systematic problem-solving in a variety of subjects and careers.”
With the Introduction to Entrepreneurship course, students can begin to explore career possibilities in a variety of business and professional settings.
The course will:
• Introduce experiences in which students develop the skills of problem-solving, decision-making, time management, public speaking, financial literacy and teamwork.
• Provide opportunities for student teams to formulate and evaluate their own ideas for a new product, app, game, or service that will become the focus of their team’s business plan.
• Offer guidance on how to leverage the coding and technology skills learned in Creative Coding to create the projects and materials needed to make their team’s plan a success.
• Culminate with a capstone challenge in which teams make their business pitch to a panel of “investors” in a “Shark Tank”-like experience.
“These course offerings are geared toward the students who are captivated by computers and technology, considered self-starters and innovative,” said Soel.
Humanities Program & Enrichment Classes
Beginning with the 2017-18 school year, the English and social studies departments in our middle schools will implement an interdisciplinary humanities program for incoming seventh-graders.
While each course will maintain the framework for its content area, teachers of both subjects will maximize the opportunity to make cross-curricular connections between their respective disciplines. In an effort to support this initiative, the seventh grade schedule will provide back-to-back classes for these courses.
Adeline Atkins, District English chairperson, said she believes that these changes will provide the opportunity to “capitalize on the connections in content, theme and skill.”
Robyn Einbinder, District Social Studies chairperson, added that the “redesigned course will work in tandem to create rich learning experiences designed to help student reading, writing, research and critical thinking skills – which will be reinforced in both settings.”
Support and enrichment classes have been redesigned to address students’ academic needs and ignite their passion for literacy. For example, Explorations in Literacy will bolster literacy skills by focusing on career exploration, creating and analyzing arguments and multiple text research. “This course will offer extra assistance in reading and writing as lessons are differentiated according to a student’s individual needs,” said Kim Serpe, district chairperson for English.
Another offering, Creative Writing, has been developed for students reading on or above grade level who are enthusiastic readers and writers of both fiction and nonfiction. Grammar, usage and mechanics are taught hand-in-hand while delving deeply into the greatest literary masterpieces, both past and present. Students will develop their own literary works through a workshop model that helps them discover their writers’ voice.
RISE (Research-based Independent Student Exploration) is the final enrichment offering designed to tap into students’ intrinsic motivation. This project-based learning course incorporates research, writing, presentation and digital literacy skills.
English teacher Michael Dlugozima views it as “not simply a blank canvas, but a blank 3D space.”
With an outlook toward creating an opportunity for students to gain the research tools necessary for 21st century learning, Mr. Dlugozima is co-authoring this curriculum along with Grand Avenue English teacher, Meredith Levine.
Department of World Languages Addition
The district’s Department of World Languages expanded its offerings for the 2016-17 school year with the addition of Mandarin Chinese.
“The response to the program was positive, and classes are now well under way at both Grand Avenue and Merrick Avenue middle schools,” said World Languages Chairperson Rosa Kaplan.
At the start of the year, seventh-grade students began studying the Chinese language and culture with their teacher, Helen Han.
Through a storytelling approach, students were quickly immersed in the language, as Ms. Han believes in teaching her entire lesson in Mandarin.
“It did not take long for students to begin speaking in Mandarin and they are already reading and writing simplified Chinese characters and Pinyin,” said Renée Fallon, a world languages chairperson.
The students are also learning about Chinese culture. Ms. Han incorporates authentic materials, videos, music and her own experiences involving daily life in China. Currently there are 35 students enrolled in the program, 15 at Grand Avenue Middle School and 20 at Merrick Avenue Middle School.
The District Continues to Investigate How to Best Prepare Students for After High School
As we discuss Regents exams and there effect on students, we have begun an expansive study into what colleges look for from students and school districts. We have identified almost 200 of the most “applicable” colleges and universities for our students, and we have developed a survey for our counselors to implement. We want to know how course rigor compares with GPA, if NYS Regents exams are still considered valuable, if our school profile has a piece in the applications process, etc. This comprehensive investigation is taking place this fall and we expect to have a compilation of results before the end of the calendar year. This information will help us in our continuous efforts to design a curricular program that best prepares students for the college applications process and for their success when they enter the college.
BMCHSD Adjusts to the Challenges of the Common Core Assessments
As the State Education Department and the Governor battle on the efficacy of the Common Core, the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District has moved to consider how to manage the issues surrounding Common Core, State Assessments, and the APPR. First and foremost in our decisions are our students. As such, we have adjusted final grades for students who took the Common Core Algebra Regents this past June, we will offer our high school juniors two opportunities for success on the 11th grade Common Core English Regents, and we have decided to delay the implementation of the Common Core Algebra 2 curriculum, and retain the Algebra 2 and Trigonometry coursework. We firmly feel, especially given the instability of the State’s Common Core implementation, our students will be best served by these adjustments and decisions.
In addition, the district and school administrators, along with faculty members and site based team participants have begun to discuss if our Regents grading policies still serve our students well. For decades, the Regents exams were the gold standard of State assessments. This, unfortunately, has changed. In some cases, the new course assessments have resulted in unreliable Regents exam outcomes. Therefore, Bellmore-Merrick staffers are in conversation on how students’ scores on exams should be reflected in their final course grades. This is a dynamic conversation, with decisions being made shortly.
BMCHSD Plans to Reinvest in its Alternative Program
The Meadowbrook Alternative Program is celebrating its 10th year this school year. During its first decade, the program has given countless Bellmore-Merrick students opportunities to thrive in school and in their post-secondary plans. The District has convened a committee to expand on the successes of the program. The committee is contemplating how the program can expand on its advanced course offerings, how it can impact on a greater number of alternatively sophisticated learners, and how the program can creatively and positively impact the community at large. As is the case with all that the District investigates, we are focused on the social, emotional and academic needs of our students.
The District Plans to Host a “Specialty Program” Informational Night for Parents
This is the inaugural year for the District’s new Culinary and Hospitality Arts Program (CHAMP) at Kennedy and its Broadcast Journalism Program at Mepham. The programs were designed to further the district’s efforts towards engaging students in learning experiences that grab their interest. Designed with the same construct as Calhoun’s On-Tour Drama program, CHAMP and Broadcasting offer students in the eighth grade the opportunity to apply to the programs, no matter where in the district they live. This is a significant decision for a middle school student. Therefore, the District will host an informational night on Tuesday, January 5, 2016 for all 8th grade students and their parents. The night will feature presentations from staff and students involved in all three district specialty programs. Specific information about the night’s schedule will be sent to parents via email, but families are asked to “save the date”.
Researching Through the Common Core to Best Prepare Our Students for College Level Research
The English departments are addressing the district’s research initiative by implementing the summer curriculum project, Researching Through the Common Core throughout the school year commencing the 2015-2016 school year. This project was created in response to the district initiative as well as the Common Core Learning Standards which requires all students to be college and career ready in: Reading for Literature, Reading for Informational Texts, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language. Teachers from grades 7-12 collaborated to discuss and agree upon research strategies, technology integration, and required components for each grade level, with an emphasis on The Big 6 Skills: Task Definition, Information Seeking Strategies, Location and Access, Use of Information, Synthesis and Evaluation. The research curriculum guide serves to provide a grades 7-12 scope and sequence for research skills as well as technology skills. The guide includes a chart that provides grade level goals for Google Drive use, database research, and multimedia presentation creation. As we move further into the school year, more and more students will be exposed to grade appropriate research skills learning experiences.
BMCHSD Adds Mandarin Chinese to its List of World Language Choices
The Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District is pleased to announce the addition of Mandarin Chinese to its Department of World Languages course offerings of French, Italian, and Spanish. Incoming sixth graders are currently making their foreign language selections and will now have the option of studying Mandarin Chinese to complete their language sequence. These students from Grand Avenue and Merrick Avenue Middle Schools will begin their study of Chinese in the fall of 2016 in the 7th grade and will have the opportunity to continue this course of study through the 12th grade. The Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District is receptive to the changes in today’s world and is always seeking ways to help students be successful 21st century learners. Mandarin Chinese students will not only learn how to communicate in Mandarin but will also spend time studying Chinese people and culture.
The iMac Labs Bring New and Exciting Learning Opportunities
Bellmore-Merrick continues to put the “A” into STEAM by increasing opportunities for all our students. Beginning in September 2016, a new district-wide art elective will be offered to 10th, 11th and 12th graders interested in exploring the rapidly growing world of digital design. Housed in the new iMac labs, Creative Suite I will offer a comprehensive overview of three of the most popular design platforms (Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign) utilized in visual media across all content areas. The course will provide the technical foundation required for any student focused on pathways, careers or certifications in graphic design, illustration, business & advertising.
The District Implements Instruction in CPR and AED Use
Under the guidance of our Athletic Director, Mr. Eric Caballero, and in conjunction with the Robbie Levine Foundation, the Bellmore-Merrick physical education teachers have been designing and delivering lessons in CPR and AED to our students, grades 7 through 12. The NSC (National Safety Council) First Aid, CPR & AED unit at both the MS and HS levels has begun and will take place in all five schools, as well as, MAP over the course of approximately 10 weeks. The development of this curricular unit was a collaborative effort with representatives from both levels contributing to the final scope and sequence. The unit will last approximately 4 days at the MS and 6 days at the HS. In addition, First Aid will be covered at the HS level. Peer-observation will be used to evaluate CPR skills at BOTH levels, with teacher input and oversight. Students at both levels will receive a NSC card indicating successful completion of the unit.
Subsequent to our plan to deliver this life skill to our learners, the NYSED introduced regulations mandating that districts present this material to students. While other districts were scrambling to initiate this mandate, Bellmore-Merrick was well into the plan to provide this material to our students.
Revaluating Senior English Core Courses
Over the past several years, the English departments have been examining course curricula and aligning each course with the new learning standards, as well as College Board Advanced Placement benchmarks. This year, particular attention was paid to the senior English course options to ensure that all graduating students would be college and career ready. As a result of this course evaluation, the core course options for seniors have increased.
Since the new English 3 course is closely aligned to the AP English Language course, it serves as an excellent “prerequisite” to the AP English Language course. Therefore, students will have the opportunity to take AP English Language as seniors next year. This learning experience, one which may even earn the student college credits, will greatly enhance students’ preparedness for freshmen level college English and for the rigors of college.
Additionally, English teachers and English department supervisors have been working together to revamp the E4 curriculum to be implemented in the 2016-2017 school year. The course will have a particular skills focus for each semester. The fall semester will be a continuation of the rhetorical analysis and argumentation skills that students have been developing throughout their high school years which will prepare them for the transition to Freshman Composition and other writing college coursework. The focus of the spring semester will be literary analysis, the research process, and presentation skills which will prepare students for college courses that require literary, social issues, and informational research and research paper writing.
The courses noted above are in addition to senior courses that presently exist, such as AP Literature and Composition, and Senior Experience.