Fewer Cycles at Chatham Middle School, Advanced Placement Economics at CHS Among Changes Proposed

Jill Gihorski, principal of Chatham Middle School, presented the proposed changes to cycle classes at Board of Ed meeting Credits: TAP Chatham
Darren J. Groh, principal of CHS, answers questions from the board about proposed curriculum changes. Credits: TAP Chatham

CHATHAM, NJ - Jill Gihorski, principal at the middle school, and high school principal Darren J. Groh presented the proposed changes to the curriculum for the 2014-15 school year on Wednesday night at the School Districts of the Chathams Board of Education meeting.

"There are two major proposed changes,"  Gihorski said. "The first has to do with our cycles program. We are looking to change the length and offerings in our cycles. And the second has to do with our eighth-grade math program. We're looking to change our course from Algebra Part A to Grade 8 Algebraic Expressions."

Middle School students in sixth, seventh and eighth grade are currently offered seven cycle classes, which averages out to 21 to 22 days in each cycle. The proposed change would reduce the cycles to four per year, giving students 39 to 40 days in each cycle class.

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"We want to give them a chance to explore something at the middle school that they could continue to study in the high school," Gihorski said. "We decided that each grade would have one required course that every student in that grade would take."

In sixth grade it's iStem Problem-Based Learning; in seventh grade it's Digital Footprints and Global Awareness; eighth grade is Holocaust Studies and the Power of Language.

Students will be required to take at least one ELA course. They can take two if they choose. The choices for sixth grade are Graphic Novels and Argument and Debate; seventh grade is Science Fiction and Fantasy,  Writer's Workshop and Sports Journalism; eighth grade is Contemporary Short Stories, Writer's Workshop and News Production.

Then students will round out their cycles for the year by choosing up to two courses from a diverse offering. None of these courses are prerequisites for any other course.

Sixth grade can take Exploring Elements of Art, Robotics, Music Technology and CMS Top Chef; the seventh grade choices are Multi-Media Design, the Grand Design Challenge, Computer Assisted Drawing and Exploring the World Through Food. Eighth graders can choose from, Exploring the Cultural Divide, App Design, Computer Coding, Textile Design Production.

"All our students take Algebra in eighth grade," Gihorski said. "We found that we would rather offer Grade 8 Algebraic Expressions, which would give a better foundation in algebra, so when they get to high school they will be able to go into the regular Algebra 1 course."

Groh noted that eighth-graders headed to the high school would be able to view 19 commercials, featuring each of the electives. The commercials were made by CHS students, who went through the television production program.

Groh listed a number of additions to the high school curriculum, including Advanced Placement Economics, a full-year course. In English, Grade 12 will have two new courses to choose, Philosophy in Literature and Contemporary Non-Fiction.

"We're also offering for the first time, two elective English courses for 11th- and 12th-graders, Short Stories and Argument and Debate,"  Groh said. "We do think the new courses we're offering will be more exciting and of interest to our students."

In mathematics, there is Computer Science 1 and Computer Science 2, which will feed into AP Computer Science.

In Science, Physics B is being split up into two courses. The first half of Physics B will become Physics 1 and the second half of Physics B will offered as Physics 2.

Technology has grown from 11 students to 33, and the new courses offered include Short Films and TV Production. Short Films will have students, creating, writing, editing and producing their own short film.

Chinese is being offered in the district for the fourth year and with it comes an Advanced Placement Chinese course.

Darren J. Groh, principal at CHS talks about virtual classes offered in video below:

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