The Westhampton Beach Board of Education approved a change to the high school course catalog on Monday night that will automatically enroll all incoming sophomores in a more rigorous English course starting in September.
Schools Superintendent Michael Radday said the modification is intended to expose all students to the advanced material currently only offered to students enrolled in honors English classes, a strategy that has been successful for the district in the past. He noted that nearly half of all the district’s 10th-graders—119 of the 251 students, or 47.4 percent—are already taking the honors course which, starting next school year, will no longer carry the “honors” label.
Dr. Robert Finn, the director of guidance and data management for the district, said Tuesday that students are already being asked to master material on a deeper level with the implementation of the Common Core curriculum, and that the new 10th grade English course will complement those changes.
“By discontinuing the honors, we have taken the program across the board and maximized what we can do for kids,” he said.
Dr. Finn also explained that the change continues a pattern of “heterogeneous grouping” that has been successful in the past. For example, all freshmen now take the same English course, and all eighth-graders are required to take both algebra and earth science, rather than offering advanced or accelerated courses to only some students.
During Monday’s meeting, High School Principal Chris Herr said that practice has yielded positive results, such as improvements in AP scores and more students enrolling in AP courses, as well as a higher number of Advanced Regents diplomas and improved graduation rates.
Board of Education member Claire Bean said she wanted to be sure that students had adequate support available to them “from the get-go, not as a reactionary measure,” to help them adjust to the more rigorous coursework and Common Core standards. Mr. Herr said he agreed with that point, noting that he has discussed the possibility of holding workshops for students who need extra help.
He also noted that the district’s teachers support the change and are prepared to give extra attention to those students who might require it.
The board also approved the addition of the Virtual Enterprises program to its career development course on Monday night. The program, first introduced to the school this year, allows students to design their own virtual business and take part in all aspects of its operation, from finance and taxes to marketing and sales.
Amy Demchak, who teaches the course, said the program was funded through a grant last year. Adding it to the course catalog ensures that it will be available to students in the future, with or without the grant, according to Mr. Radday.