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Curriculum Update and Change to Social Studies Sequence Presented to WHRHS Board of Education

Brenda A. Nemcek

Thursday, December 5, 2013 • 6:49pm

WARREN, NJ - One of the goals the Watchung Hills Regional High School Board of Education established earlier this year was to develop a set of guiding principles for curriculum and instruction and establish well-articulated learning goals based on analysis of student performance data.

Earlier this year, Superintendent Elizabeth Jewett said, “When I addressed the staff on the first day of school and spoke about all of the new state mandates; teacher evaluations, student growth objectives, PARCC, etc., I had pledged to them that we wouldn’t let these mandates derail our overall purpose and we wouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture, but, rather, we would use the mandates to our advantage and figure out how we can make them work for us in order to enhance teaching and learning within the context of Watchung Hills.

“I really feel that if we capitalize on this momentum and focus on a long-term plan for curriculum and instruction, there is nothing we won’t be able to accomplish when it comes to meeting student needs."

At Monday's Board of Education meeting, Jewett and Principal George Alexis presented a curriculum update, an authentic assessment update and a compelling explanation of the need to change the Social Studies sequence.

The four main curriculum components are, the mandated standards, action plans, curriculum instruction, and evaluation of progress.

Alexis said, "We want to continue to exceed the standards" with authentic assessments and a focus on critical and creative thinking. Where our students can collaborate and communicate effectively, solve real world problems, understand relevance, strengthen social and emotional intelligence and make ethical choices.

With regard to the change to the Social Studies sequence, Jewett explained that the change is necessary to align to new standards and will occur along with curricular re-alignment to the new US History AP exam to be administered in 2015.

The change affords an opportunity to offer new social studies electives and increase the availability of current social studies electives.
Additionally, the change will allow for an SAT II opportunity in both World History and U.S. History, and more flexibility in scheduling for students.
Added benefits are that colleges will see more electives in 12th grade and the students will benefit from cross-curricular connections.
Beginning next fall, Watchung Hills will change its sequence of U.S. History I and II, both required by the state, to students’ sophomore and junior years. Modern European History, will continue to be offered as an elective.
Traditionally, 9th grade students take a World Cultures course at Watchung Hills, and the district has steered most of the 10th grade students toward Modern European History as an elective with the required U.S. History I and U.S. History II courses following in 11th and 12th grades. 
 A major shift occurred in the N.J. state standards in 2004, toward a focus on world history. The New Jersey Department of Education requires five credits in world history and two years of U.S. History.
The district’s current structure calls for students to complete 10 credits of social studies, World Cultures and Modern European History (MEH), to meet the five credit world history requirement.
“We did not make the shift there,” Jewett said. “It is taking us 10 credits to meet a five credit requirement. It’s irresponsible on our part to not be aligned to the core curriculum standards.”
A new freshman more comprehensive world history course will be offered, including many of the topics currently covered in MEH. More importantly, the school will now meet the core curriculum standards and will be allowed to offer more electives and free up flexibility in scheduling.
Jewett said," Colleges like to see your required courses done as soon as possible. They want to see what electives you’re challenging yourself with.”

To see the presentation, go to :





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