Parents, Students Speak Out Against Proposed Curricula Changes

By Ivana Kosir

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A town hall meeting allowed students, parents, and community members to express their opinions regarding the Annual Review of Programs for 2012-13 for District 219 schools Thursday, Nov. 3 at Niles North.

According to the Annual Review of Programs, which is published on the District’s website, the purpose is to “ensure that curricular programs are aligned with the Board of Education’s mission statement and goals, including the Five-Year Strategic Plan, in a fiscally responsible manner.” The review list recommendations for changes to all departments and this year includes a possible new graduation requirement.

At the town hall meeting, the three main issues discussed were the new graduation requirement, fine arts changes, and the possible elimination of the Honors classes for upperclassmen for the 2012-2013 school year.

In summary, public speaking would be a graduation requirement for the class of 2016 and every class after that. According to the Annual Review of Programs, classes that would be meet the requirement include some theatre courses, debate, advanced policy debate, public speaking, advanced public speaking, and broadcasting.

Some parents say they are not in favor of this requirement.  Niles West parent Lori Berman is not in favor of this requirement because according to her, it would stress out students even more than they already are. She claims that Niles West should offer more to kids, such as increasing Honors and AP level classes that can replace the public speaking requirement.

Other parents at the town hall meeting said they were in favor of the new requirement because public speaking is an important skill for students to learn.

Several parents at the town hall meeting spoke out in strong disagreement of changes to the fine arts department which will involve courses in theatre, music, and art being offered in a seminar style rather than meeting prerequisites to take certain courses such as directing.

Margaret Reader, a Niles North theatre parent, is not in favor of any change.

“The fine arts program is an award-winning program and top program in the country. Why are we messing with that?” Reader said.

Additionally, some Honors classes might be eliminated in the future, such as Honors English.

Niles West English director Sanlida Cheng expressed her views on the potential change.

“My concern is that kids are not in [the right] class. [We want to] give students opportunities to take AP English, which is an extensive curriculum,” Cheng said.

Most parents and students at the town hall meeting said they were not in favor of this change, stating that they were worried about already stressful class loads, and if Honors were eliminated, more students would be forced into AP classes, increasing their stress.

“I had a daughter whose English teacher recommended her for Honors and not AP. What do you do with students who can’t jump from regular level to an AP level?” said Deborah Noor, a Niles North parent.

The results of the town hall meeting as well as feedback the District received online will be presented tonight at the School Board meeting at 7:45 in the District office.

UPDATES

At the board meeting on Nov. 14, the topics of Hebrew, fine arts, and English classes revisions and graduation requirements were discussed. No final decisions were made, but the recommendations are as followed.

Hebrew classes with low enrollment should be eliminated, specifically Hebrew 1-2 and Hebrew 3-4.

In the fine arts department, advanced theatre studio would be an option for the second and fourth year of the theatre curriculum. Additionally, directing and play production should be single-semester courses for upperclassmen. These two classes are at an AP level.

The idea of terminating Honors English was discussed again, but nothing new was established.

The school board wants to initiate public speaking as a  new graduation requirement starting with the class of 2016. The classes that would satisfy this requirement would be debate, advanced policy debate, public speaking, advanced public speaking, broadcasting, and some theatre courses.

Decisions on these issues will be finalized at the Dec. 12 board meeting.

Gabrielle Abesamis contributed to this article.