Handley expanding English curriculum

Posted: February 23, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Handley High School is redesigning its English curriculum to offer more options to students.

The topic was discussed Friday during a city School Board Instruction Committee meeting in the Central Administrative Office.

Starting in the fall, more advanced ninth- and 10th-grade students will be able to choose between the traditional English course or accelerated higher-level coursework — an option that wasn’t previously available.

“Both students and teachers are finding it hard to accommodate top-performing students who can work at a faster pace,” said Mary Tedrow, English department chairman at Handley.

With the new option, students will work on the same skills but at a different pace.

No additional resources or funding is needed for the change.

Starting around 2015-16, Handley will allow students to “test out” of the English End-of-Course reading and writing prior to the 11th grade. They will then be able to choose from numerous new course offerings, such as African-American, Hispanic and contemporary literature, magazine writing and intensive journalism.

Tedrow said the change comes because many students believed that passing the English Standards of Learning (SOL) test, which they take their junior year, was the ultimate goal to their English studies at Handley.

“Students are getting the mistaken expectation that this is the high bar,” she said.

The new curriculum additions will adhere to a student’s interests and will not be SOL-dependent.

Over the next few years, three additional English teachers and $25,000 in resources will be needed to accommodate the change.

The board members present Friday were pleased with the redesign plan.

“It’s really refreshing to talk about thinking outside what has become our pretty traditional box,” said board member Allyson Pate.

Fellow member Erica Truban agreed.

“This is one of the most positive things I’ve seen on my eight or nine months on the board,” she said.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com