Academic Changes for the 2019-20 School Year » February 2019 Update

February 2019 Update

 
While a full transition away from the Regents program will take two years to complete, we are excited to begin to share more details about the new direction of our academic program, including many changes that will be implemented this September, impacting both our current students and the incoming Class of 2023.

As always, I encourage you to reach out to me directly with any questions you may have about these changes or anything related to our academic program. As principal, I am energized and excited by this new direction for St. Joe’s. Since 1861, this school has always done well in living out its mission of preparing students to thrive academically in college and beyond. The decision to move away from the Regents was made in this same spirit.

I am confident that our new academic vision will ultimately support all of us -- teachers, administrators, parents -- as we strive to do our best to prepare your son(s) for continued success in college and in the ever-changing world in which we live.

Mr. James Spillman ’95
Principal
jspillman@sjci.com

Some highlights of the new post-Regents academic program:

Starting with the incoming Class of 2023 (incoming freshmen), students will be grouped as much as possible with other students from their own grade level. Freshman students who come in with advanced high school credits in a particular subject area (Algebra I, Spanish I, etc.) will generally not be placed in mixed classes with sophomores, and will instead find themselves placed in Honors level courses with other freshman students.

Our rationale: We believe this will create a better in-class learning environment for all students, while helping to build a stronger sense of community within each grade cohort. Moreover, placing advanced students in the Honors track during their first year will set these students up to potentially take a greater number of Advanced Placement courses during their junior and senior years.

Starting with the Class of 2022 (current freshmen), all students will be required to take one additional credit in mathematics or science, for a total of seven (7) math/science credits at graduation.

Our rationale: Our students have shown an increased level of interest in STEM courses over the past several years. Much of this is due to the high-quality elementary and middle school STEM and STREAM programs that our students are coming from. This change will help us to respond to this increased demand by offering our students a wider variety of math and science elective courses, while also encouraging more of our students to enroll in Advanced Placement courses in both subject areas.

Beginning in the 2020-2021 school year, several new elective courses in math and science will be added to the SJCI course catalog. Many of these courses will be taught in conjunction with local colleges, offering students the opportunity to pursue college credit during their junior and senior years. Potential new courses include: Anatomy & Physiology, Kinesiology, Astronomy, Introduction to Statistics, and Introduction to Logic.

Starting with the Class of 2021 (current sophomores), all students will be required to take a one semester course in public speaking during their junior or senior year.

Our rationale: As we prepare students for college, work, and life, we recognize that the ability to effectively communicate is one of the most important skills for our students to develop during their time at St. Joe’s. Requiring this course will give all students the opportunity to learn how to be a more confident communicator while giving them the chance to practice communication skills in a supportive and affirming classroom environment.

Starting with the Class of 2023 (incoming freshmen), all students will be required to take a one semester course entitled Topics in Computer Science during their freshman or sophomore year.

Our rationale: Technology is a constant presence in our lives and in our world. Through our 1:1 device program, it is also a crucial part of the teaching and learning process at St. Joe’s. By requiring this course, we believe we will be able to teach our students how to use technology most effectively and efficiently, challenge them to embrace the values of digital citizenship, and inspire them to pursue advanced courses in the fields of computer science and technology.

To that end, we will also be expanding our computer science course offerings beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. New courses that will be offered include: Introduction to Coding, AP Computer Science, AP Computer Science Principles, and Topics in Computer Science. These new courses will give students who are interested in pursuing a career in computer science a more comprehensive educational path toward this goal.
 
Starting with the Class of 2023 (incoming freshmen), the social studies course sequence will be changed so the primary focus of our freshman course is on United States history.

Our rationale: This new course sequence will allow our social studies teachers to build off the coursework our incoming students have completed in middle school, while exploring our country’s rich history in greater thematic depth. Our new freshman course - The American Journey - will also place great emphasis on the development of some of the most essential skills needed for success at St. Joe’s, namely writing, critical thinking and analysis, research, and study skills. The American Journey course will have an Honors level, with the hope that these freshman students will move on to take AP World History during their sophomore year.

During their sophomore year, students will continue to take a course in world civilizations or AP World History. However, beginning in the 2021-2022 school year, juniors will have the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of U.S. history electives. These new elective courses will allow students to explore various aspects of our country’s history in greater depth, while giving our teachers the chance to create and teach courses about the subjects they are most passionate about. We know this will help to create an engaging and enriching educational experience for our students in each social studies classroom.

Additionally, Advanced Placement courses in economics and European history will be offered to students during the 2019-2020 school year. Beginning in the 2020-2021 school year, we are planning to offer additional senior electives in business and economics, creating the foundation for a new business concentration for students interested in pursuing a career in business, finance, marketing, or a related field.

Starting with the Class of 2023 (incoming freshmen), the scope and sequence of our math curriculum will be adjusted to present our students with a more integrated approach to math education, with aspects of algebra, advanced algebra, geometry and trigonometry being taught across a student’s first three years at St. Joe’s.

Our rationale: We believe this integrated approach to mathematics instruction will better support our students as they develop key mathematical skills, while helping students to make critical connections across the mathematical spectrum. Moreover, by shifting the freshman curriculum to increasingly focus on geometry, we believe our students will be more adequately prepared for success in upper level math courses.

Starting with the Class of 2021 (current sophomores), students will have the opportunity to choose from over a dozen different full-year English elective courses to complete their English requirement during both their junior and senior years.

Our rationale: As a college preparatory school, we strive to provide our students with course offerings similar to what students will experience in a college classroom. These new English electives, with their unique and varied themes, will give our students a number of options to choose from, while inspiring them to read and write about topics they have developed a particular interest in. We know this will lead to improved reading and writing skills, more in-depth class discussions, and a greater enjoyment of reading.

The AP English course will now be open to both juniors and seniors, providing this college-level course opportunity to more students while giving students greater flexibility to fit courses of interest into their academic schedules. Additionally, we are excited to reintroduce London Seminar to our curriculum in the 2019-2020 school year. This full-year course, which will be open to both juniors and seniors, will examine the culture, history, and politics of “literary London.” A major component of the course will be a ten-day trip to London during our Easter recess in April 2020.

A new exercise and wellness course will be offered to students as an alternative to their physical education class during either their junior or senior year.

Our rationale: St. Joe’s students have often shown an increased interest in nutrition and personal wellness topics. By offering students this alternative to the more “traditional” physical education experience, we hope to provide students with an opportunity to develop, plan for, and ultimately meet their own personal health and wellness goals.

At the same time, we have decided to keep physical education as a required course for students throughout their four years at St. Joe’s. While these courses are often being reduced or phased out at many high schools, we believe it is valuable to continue to promote the importance of regular physical activity and the values of sportsmanship and teamwork.

In addition to the new course offerings outlined in the above sections, new junior and senior electives will be offered to students next year by both our modern language and fine arts departments.

Our rationale: The modern language electives will give our upperclassmen an opportunity to explore the Spanish and French languages from a unique, arts-focused cultural perspective. The new fine arts electives will add to our already robust fine arts curriculum, helping us to further establish St. Joe’s as the premier destination in Western New York for fine arts education and performance.