Brookline School Curriculum Subcommittee considers new courses to increase diversity
Anisa Sharma and Nate Parry Luff|January 20, 2022
ROSA CARAMAZZA/SAGAMORE STAFF
The School Curriculum Subcommittee met to discuss the implementation of future classes for the 2022-3 school year.
The Brookline School Curriculum Subcommittee Meeting convened virtually via Zoom on Jan. 18 at 4 p.m. to discuss the introduction of new courses and adaptation of current courses for the 2022-23 school year to improve diversity and access at the high school.
Mathematics Curriculum Coordinator Joshua Paris presented a proposal for a new course at the high school: Data Science and Social Justice, which would focus on social justice issues and introduce students to gathering related data, making models and presenting.
Paris said the aim of the course is to tie math into real-world application, something that students have expressed an interest in.
“A number of teachers have incorporated social justice lessons into their curriculums this year, and the feedback we are getting from students is really positive,” Paris said.
Paris said the course will be open to all students and taught using complex instruction, a type of teaching that focuses on group work and collaboration.
“Complex instruction is a way to make sure that all students have a social standing in a class. It’s a belief that all students have something to bring to a group,” Paris said.
Visual Arts Curriculum Coordinator Donna Sartanowicz presented a new visual arts course called Artists’ Books and Visual Journals. Sartanowicz said the course focuses on expression through creating visual journals which can provide students with an outlet for expression.
“A visual journal is a place where you can practice, you can collect images and think about things. You can experiment with your ideas, and it’s a very open way to work,” Sartanowicz said.
Sartanowicz said she found low enrollment numbers and course success from underprivileged communities after looking at data from other visual arts courses.
“We need to do some work on building the diversity of our classes. We want to make sure we are teaching all students; we are making a variety of moves to bring that diversity and equity about, and [the course] is just one of those moves,” Sartanowicz said.
Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator Gary Shiffman presented the concept of a pilot Social Studies class, Global Studies, for the 2022-23 school year as a 10th grade world history course.
Currently, all students in 9th grade take the unleveled World History: Identity, Status, and Power (WHISP) course and choose from either standard or honors World History II for 10th grade. Like WHISP, Global Studies would have students taking both standard and honors credits.
Global Studies would revolve around themes, and Shiffman said that although this can lead to confusion around the timeline of events, it allows for students to form personal connections with class content and understand impacts on the present day.
“In a thematic-based course, you can get to the present and teach the past as a precursor in a way that is illuminating that past for students,” Shiffman said.
According to Shiffman, the Global Studies course would allow differentiation within a class to be based on performance instead of pre-determined labels.
“Traditionally, students sign up for an honors or standard class and there is no way to make it not feel like identification. The fact is you’re buying a ticket, and you buy the premium ticket or the not premium ticket” Shiffman said.
Science Curriculum Coordinator Ed Wiser updated the subcommittee on the process of making AP Physics courses more accessible to students by merging two AP Physics: AP Physics I & II and AP Physics C. Wiser said additional planning is required for the start of the merged AP Physics course next fall.
“We’re trying to figure out how we can restructure those first few units of AP Physics so that we can make the onboarding a little more intentional,” Wiser said.
Students and teachers benefit from consolidating courses with multiple levels in the high school, Wiser said.
“Every single time that we’ve taken courses with many levels, as soon as we’ve collapsed those, scores were the same or even better, and access was increased,” Wiser said. “Every single time we’ve reduced the number of levels, we’ve always seen success, and the other interesting part of this is that you get teachers who are able to collaborate more.”
The subcommittee plans on voting on the proposed courses at their next meeting on Feb. 3.