Sophomore speech class eliminated

Incoming freshmen, sophomores and juniors at Central will have a new format for their Communication Arts classes for the 2013-2014 school year.

Classes like Honors Patterns, Intermediate Composition, Speech and Honors Journalism, among others, that most students take during their high school years will be replaced with new courses aligned to Common Core standards, Jackie Thornton, assistant principal of curriculum, said.

As of press time and pending school board approval, the new courses will be English 1 or Honors English 1 for freshmen, English 2 and English 2: Journalism or Honors English 2 and Honors English 2: Journalism for sophomores and English 3 and American Studies or AP Language and Composition for juniors. The current course choices for incoming seniors will remain unchanged, and the 2014-2015 school year choices for seniors are to be determined.

Even though Speech is not a graduation requirement, all students currently take Speech as part of the Communications Arts sequence. Next year, Speech will become an elective, along with other classes, that students may choose to take in addition to the English I, II, III sequence.

However, the skills that students normally learn in Speech will still be integrated into the second semester of sophomore year.

“If you look at the second semester…the knowledge and skills that we teach in Speech class now are very heavily integrated in the second semester of the course that we’re calling English II,” Thornton said.

The literature that students are exposed to now will “mostly likely” change, and the courses will become overall more difficult, Mike Doman, Communication Arts Coordinator and member of the committee that enacted the changes, said.

“I think Common Core will make things more rigorous,” said Doman. “It is amazing to see that some of the things being done [with the changes] are not things we normally do.”

Doman thinks that the standardization of skills will have a positive impact on students.

“There’s been a lot of misperception that every single school is going to teach the exact same thing and its going to be this kind of rote curriculum, and that’s really not what it is,” said Doman. “What it’s really saying is that no matter where you go to school, these are the skills that are important for ninth graders to master.”

The group responsible for applying Common Core to high schools, the EC-12 Literacy Curriculum Team (LCT), met during the 2012 summer. The group, consisting of representatives from Naperville North and nine Central teachers and administrators, had the task of translating Common Core standards into concrete units and classes for students.

“Essentially what we have now are…skill statements that are divided into units of study,” said Thornton. “But we don’t have assessments in place yet…so I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we have a full curriculum.”

Making Speech class an elective has some Speech teachers “concerned” that the speaking and listening skills students normally learn will not be adequately taught, Doman said.

However, Thornton assures that the skills won’t be lost, merely further integrated into all classes.

“The Common Core really says that those skills need to be embedded across the curriculum, that we need to have speaking and listening instruction and assessments in all grade levels,” Thornton said.

Junior Vanitha Raguveer is on the executive board for Speech Team and is in charge on community outreach for the team. Speech class influenced her to join the team and taught her important skills about communication.

“Speech class definitely helped in learning how to structure a speech [and realizing] the differences between writing an essay and writing a speech,” Raguveer said.

Even though she understands why Speech is becoming an elective, she considers the change “odd.”

“I do think it’s important to take a speaking class just because it helps people almost…get out of [their] shell,” said Raguveer. “It’s a good skill to have in the future.”

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