OPINION: Stop ill-considered changes to humanities curriculum
Beaverton parents, do you know what the superintendent and school board are doing to our middle schools?
Here is a little bit of history so you can see the whole picture.
Twelve years ago, the Beaverton Schol District cut around nine language arts and social studies teachers per middle school and combined the classes into a "humanities class." This meant double the learning targets.
When there was concern over writing scores (duh), BSD purchased a multi-million-dollar writing program requiring all middle school teachers to teach it, leaving little room for social studies.
Then BSD purchased hundreds of paperbacks for each classroom (not the libraries) in order for students to practice independent reading.
Social studies hasn't had a training or new curriculum for 21-plus years.
Humanities teachers asked the district to please split the class back into the two proper subjects for the benefit of the students.
The superintendent did split the subjects, but he doubled the amount of classes one person would teach. Middle school language arts and social studies teachers will teach six periods a day for 42 minutes, unlike the math or science classes.
OK, so what does this really mean? Sure it means a lot more work on a specific group of teachers. But that's not the part that parents need to hear. This is what it really means.
• Language arts and social studies teachers will have 200+ students. (Currently they have 100+ students.)
• A cut of teachers from each middle school. (As one teacher's workload will be doubled.)
• Fewer papers scored. (Currently, humanities teachers read and score around 900 papers/writing per year; next year, it would be 1,800.)
• Less accommodation for students in reading. (Currently, humanities teachers read aloud/along with students to help students "get into" a story and accommodate lower-level readers.)
• Loss of equity in curriculum, assessment, and grading consistency. (Currently, humanities teachers meet every week to plan like-units and assessments.)
• Students will be less ready for high school. (Currently, humanities teachers don't have enough minutes in the classes to teach all of the required curriculum This discrepancy will grow larger with additions to the State Social Studies Standards and the new required reading curriculum. Separating the subjects would have helped if we had the same schedule as other core subjects.)
• A reduction of reading skill lessons. (Engaging students in reading books of high interest in class improves reading skills. There will be no time to do this in class.)
• A reduction in hands-on learning in social studies. Currently, we create activities where students create a constitution or government. They love our mock trial activity. Time will not allow us to do these types of activities.
What can you do about it? Let the superintendent and school board know that you think our students need equitable access and time in their language arts and social studies classes.
Thanks for reading.
Trisha Parks is a 30-year middle school language arts and social studies teacher. She currently teaches the humanities at Cedar Park Middle School in Beaverton.
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