SHS gets new English curriculum

For the first time in more than a decade, the English department is getting new material - and new tech.

The Sequim High School English department is working on getting a new curriculum — and in doing so looks to get the school’s first new English program in more than a decade.

After working with the program this past academic year, SHS English teachers have been piloting a program called myPerspectives, made by British curriculum development company Pearson Education.

According to SHS teacher Cheryl Eekhoff, who presented myPerspectives to the Sequim School Board on June 17, the department had done some research and piloted two other programs — Springboard and Engage New York — but hadn’t felt like those programs would be a good fit for SHS students.

When it came to myPerspectives, though, there was little hesitation, she said.

“Seeing that when we went back to Edreports (an independent, non-profit reviewer of school curricula) to find more material, it was number one on their list,” SHS teacher Sean O’Mera said.

Eekhoff and English department chair Chelsea Reichner first went to Edreports, only Springboard and Engage were initially listed. But in the time it took them to evaluate those programs, several other options emerged and myPerspective became the runaway leader.

“When we looked at myPerspectives, we realized that it was not only a very comprehensive curriculum, but one that was incredibly adaptable to our students’ needs,” O’Mera said.

“When I assign a text to my students, I can make sure each of them gets a version of it that fits their reading and skill level so there’s no imbalance in what everyone is working on.”

That adaptability is aided by the largely digital nature of myPerspectives, allowing teachers to easier track their students’ progress and even adapt things to better serve each individual student without letting their peers know about any changes.

Both Eekhoff and O’Mera said they are excited about the adaptability and flexibility of the program, especially with many classrooms having such a wide range of students in them these days.

The structure of myPerspectives is also strong for the different levels of interaction and involvement, O’Mera noted.

“Each lesson and theme starts with the whole classroom being lead by the teacher, then breaks down into smaller, collaborative student-lead groups,” he said.

“Once they’re done with that part of the lesson, they work individually, choosing what they want to read and work on themselves based on the greater theme. There’s anything from poetry to all kinds of fiction to even non-fiction to choose from on any of our topics, all depending on what the students want to work on at the time.”

Support, hurdles

The best part, O’Mera said, is that it’s not just the the teachers who have been excited about working with the myPerspective curriculum — the students have been as well.

“Creating this interest and excitement in our students is a great way to make some lifelong readers, which is always something English teachers want to see,” O’Mera said.

One of the potential hurdles to myPerspectives the department was facing was access to computers, with most of the English classrooms only having one or two computers.

“I feel lucky that my classroom has seven,” O’Mera said. Computer lab time has also been difficult to get for English classes, with other departments needing it regularly as well.

Fortunately, according to O’Mera, the cost of myPerspectives compared to some other curriculum options means that the department will be able to get laptop carts — portable charging stations with enough laptops for a full classroom — for each English class without going wildly above other programs’ costs.

According to Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Maughan, who has worked closely with the English department through the process of testing the curriculum, the total cost — including the six-year curriculum license, class copies of novels, professional development for the teachers, and the technology acquisitions — will cost the district a little more than $100,000.

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