The Student News Site of Bellevue East High School

The Tom Tom

The Student News Site of Bellevue East High School

The Tom Tom

The Student News Site of Bellevue East High School

The Tom Tom

New English courses coming to East next year

Bellevue Public Schools high school English departments will switch to a new English curriculum the 2024-25 school year, affecting all grade levels as state standards change; 11-12th grade non-advanced English classes have been replaced with 6 new half-semester elective classes. 

Next school year’s freshmen and sophomores will take either advanced or regular English classes, and juniors and seniors will take either A.P. English classes or the new half-semester English elective classes.

“The biggest change that’s going to impact students is the 11th and 12th grade change, which has now allowed students to choose the focus of their English class,” English instructor Laura Messier, a member of the curriculum writing team, said.

The English curriculum writing team has made changes that align with the state of Nebraska’s standards for English as well as what research has shown individual students need. The new 11-12th grade elective classes give students a choice in what they learn. The new elective classes will have an emphasis on fiction for the first semester and then non-fiction for the second semester to meet the required state standards. 

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“What we’ve found is that if students have a choice in what they read, they are more likely to read,” English Department Chair Brenda Nelson said, “so the focus has gone away from as many required texts.” 

By enabling students to take control of what they read, more students will be engaged in their education according to instructor Brenda Nelson. The curriculum in every grade level will include more modern, diverse, and engaging topics than the previous traditional topics. 

“I think the biggest benefit will be the student engagement,” Messier said, “and that students will be allowed to pick and choose what they enjoy and what they want to see in their curriculum instead of having a teacher tell them what to do and what to read.” 

Student engagement is emphasized in the new curriculum. When students like what they are learning, they tend to learn more because they want to learn according to Nelson. According to the Institute of Education Sciences, 69% of students in Nebraska performed at or above the NAEP Basic level in 2019. The NAEP Basic level indicates a student’s partial mastery of a skill. The emphasis of student engagement is a key part of the new curriculum and partial reason why the 11-12th grade elective classes have been created. 

“I’m choosing the elective English classes because there’s more of a choice in what I get to read and that makes it more fun for me because English has never really been fun,” sophomore Evelyn Carozza said. 

Bellevue East changes their curriculum every ten years, which is when Nebraska changes their state standards. The curriculum writing process is divided into three years. 

“Our first year we go through and review all our state standards,” Nelson said. “After we do that, we’ll start looking at planning out general units.” 

The second year the process is continued. Any new novels are field tested in the classroom. Students and teachers are then surveyed about the book so it can be approved for the curriculum. The third year is implementation, where the curriculum is applied in classrooms. 

“The curriculum is still kind of a living thing because we can always propose to include a new novel,” Nelson said. 

The new 11-12th grade elective classes are replacing the previous non-advanced English classes. The offered classes for first semester include Myths and Legends, Young Adult Literature, and Culture in Context. Classes offered second semester include 21st Century Studies, Sports in Literature, and Literature of War. Juniors and seniors will not be separated by grade. 

“So that’s really the big change, that kids could end up in classes with kids of different grade levels,” Nelson said.

Additionally, teachers that once taught 11th and 12th grade regular English classes are still unsure what classes they will be teaching next year. Besides the topic, teachers are still unsure as to what books and projects they will be teaching. 

“It’s exciting,” Nelson said.“It can cause a little anxiety if a teacher has taught the curriculum for many years. It reminds teachers what it’s like to be a new teacher.” 

Some teachers in the English department have said they are excited and ready for the new English curriculum. Many books and projects have been phased out of the English curriculum including Wuthering Heights and other classical literature according to Laura Messier. 

“I’m really excited for the change,” Messier said. “I think all of the people on the team have done a really good job of finding modern things that kids will enjoy and trying to find different ways to engage students other than just writing essays all of the time.”

How’s it work? In her classroom, English Department Chair Brenda Nelson review student work. “We do curriculum about every ten years. Our first year we go through and review all our state standards because we switch our curriculum when the state switches their standards,” Nelson said. Photo by Layla Hango

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