Curriculum Development Process

   The curriculum development process that led to our new 4-year sequence, including the 9th grade Ecology / Environmental Science course, began in 2004, and continued for 3 years, until the presentation of our final proposal to the School Committee in late Fall, 2007. Components of our curriculum development process included the following:

  • Review of the strengths and weaknesses of our curricular offerings, 9th - 12th grades

  • Consideration of the recommendations for science education from leading standards-setting organizations

    • The importance of incorporating inquiry was noted in the literature.

    • The importance of integration of mathematics into the sciences was noted in the literature.

    • The importance of environmental education as a component of science education for youth was noted in the literature.

  • Consideration of State standards and Curriculum Frameworks
    • Consideration of impending science MCAS exam to be required for graduation.

  • It evolved that, although curriculum frameworks exist in this area, the science content areas to be tested by the State would not include Earth Science.

  • Review of what courses were offered in similarly competitive school districts; Program of Study excerpts from other schools were provided to us by the Curriculum Director in the summer of 2004

  • Consideration of input from school administration, Guidance, and parents-guardians as to students' needs

    • Review of data on student course selections in Science

    • Consideration of feedback regarding 9th grade science, and 8th - 9th grade academic transition issues

    • Consideration of the need for additional Science electives for both students who struggle, and highly able students

    • Construction of potential 4-year sequences for students with varying needs

  • Consideration of continuing the program in place at that time for 9th graders, which was either Earth Science (College Prep or Honors), or Honors Biology

  • Consideration of Biology first for all students

    • What was working and not working about offering Honors Biology as a 9th grade option?

    • Review of literature regarding offering Biology first

  • Consideration of Physics First for all students

  • Curriculum modifications and new course proposals emerging from this work:

    • Proposal and establishment of a new 1-trimester elective, WAVES: The Physics of Sound, Light and Color, a heterogeneously-grouped class with an Honors option

    • Re-organization of Chemistry in the Community into two themed semesters, for which students could earn credit for either half (previously, students had to pass both trimesters to receive credit). Established in 2006-07.

    • Proposal and establishment of AP Physics C / Mechanics

    • Communication in writing (October 2004) to the Executive Director of K-12 Curriculum, Amherst Regional Public Schools of our interest in offering AP Chemistry

    • Revision of Conceptual Physics into two separate trimesters, for which a student could receive credit for either trimester

    • Revision and integration of the curricula of Physics (which had been primarily mechanics in content), and Conceptual Physics (which included mechanics, electricity and magnetism) into one new course

    • Recognition that Environmental Science was a missing part of our curriculum, one recommended by leading organizations

      • Re-design of Earth Science, to a hybrid course: 1st trimester: Earth Science: Understanding Environmental Change (heterogeneously grouped), and 2nd trimester: Earth Science: Terrestrial Environments (Honors or College Preparatory options). This course integrated key concepts of earth and environmental science. Established in 2006-07.

      • Revision of and re-establishment of an upper-level Environmental Science elective, which hadn't run in several years (Note: This course will be phased out as incoming students progress through the 9th grade course.)

      • Development and proposal of Ecology / Environmental Science course as our new 9th grade foundational course. We developed a College Prep offering, a rigorous Honors offering, and, for students who could meet certain criteria and were interested in building a resume strong in AP courses, a 9th grade AP Environmental Science option.

  • Vertical teaming curriculum work, during the school year, and in summer work:

    • 9th - 12th grades

      • Identification of skills and content from Biology / Honors Biology and Honors Chemistry that would be moved into 9th grade

    • 7th - 12th grades

      • Identification of curricular overlaps and omissions

      • Initiation of a 7th - 12th skills continuum

      • Coordination of expectations for lab reports 7-12; graphing; and dimensional analysis

  • Summer and school-year curricular work over several years

  • Piloting of benchmark assessment labs

  • Presentation of final proposal to School Committee

  • Textbook review & selection

  • Development of course objectives and rubrics for key assignments

Timeline for New Course Proposals

The protocol at ARHS is for an 18-month period of curriculum development before the proposal of a new course. This time period allows for incorporation of the many components mentioned above, such as research from leading organizations, alignment with State frameworks, vertical teaming, identification of needed resources, summer curricular work, and so on. The Science Department invested more than double this time in the development of the 9th grade course proposal. Ongoing curricular work continues. 

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