“INNOVATION AND TRADITION IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS”
Department Chair Kevin Bloom
The goal of the English Language Arts curriculum is to teach all learners how to reason and use language purposefully as they comprehend and convey meaning in the successful pursuit of a high school diploma. The curriculum requires and extends thinking skills, drawing on literature from many genres, periods, and cultures, and featuring works that reflect a common literary heritage. The curriculum emphasizes writing as an essential way to develop, clarify, and communicate ideas in persuasive, expository, literary, and expressive discourse. At all grade and ability levels, the curriculum embeds skills instruction in meaningful learning and supports instruction and literacy with all forms of media. The curriculum supports strategies for acquiring academic knowledge and attaining independence in learning. Finally, the curriculum builds on the language, experience, and interests that students bring to school; develops each student’s distinctive writing or speaking voice; and prepares the student for responsible participation in academic and civic life. In English Language Arts students will:
- Apply the conventions of questioning, discussing, and presenting to a group; learn words, word parts, and word-attack strategies that they need for adult life; and learn and use the conventions of grammar and usage employed in Standard English.
- Develop strategies for the fluent processing, comprehension, critical analysis, and appreciation of a variety of texts, gaining an understanding of the elements and structure of different genres. Specific emphasis is placed on the study of American Literature in grade 11 and World Literature in grade 12.
- Write for a variety of audiences and purposes with a developmentally appropriate style; apply knowledge of language and conventions; and develop strategies for organizing, drafting, revising, editing and executing final copy of compositions.
- Critically analyze and compare elements, conventions, and techniques of various media, and access on-line information as a resource for various tasks.
Students at Shawsheen Valley Technical High School are grouped by ability in their English classrooms. The curriculum has been carefully designed to meet the developmental needs of students at each of five levels of study, while preparing students for local and state diploma requirements. Instruction in each of five levels of ability addresses the 27 learning standards identified by the Massachusetts Frameworks for the English Language Arts. The English Department takes great care to place students into classes that best suit the individuals’ learning needs and abilities. Placement into ability levels is determined by multiple criteria, including performance on the (a) Stanford Diagnostic Reading Test (SDRT), (b) Shawsheen Writing Test (SWT), and (c) Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test. In addition, recent classroom performance—including completion of writing portfolios, performance on quizzes and exams, classroom participation, and submission of homework—is an important placement criterion. Although some texts and tasks are required at all levels, many materials, tasks, and particularly instructional approaches vary among the levels.
All mainstreamed English students are placed in one of the following five levels:
Honors, Level 1. This curriculum is designed for students (a) whose SDRT Comprehension score is three or more years above grade level and (b) whose SWT or portfolio submissions have received a minimum holistic rating of seven on a 10-point scale by members of the Department. In grades 10-12, the prerequisite for placement in College Prep, Level 1 (Honors) also includes (c) maintaining an average in College Prep, Level 1 (Honors) of no lower than a 77 or a teacher recommendation or (d) maintaining an average in College Prep, Level 2 of no lower than an 87 and a teacher recommendation.
College Preparatory, Level 2. This curriculum is designed for students (a) whose SDRT Comprehension is approximately two years above grade level and (b) whose SWT or other writing portfolio submissions have received a minimum holistic rating of six on a 10-point scale by members of the Department.
College Preparatory, Level 3. This curriculum is designed for students (a) whose SDRT Comprehension score is at or near grade level and (b) whose SWT or other writing portfolio submissions have received a minimum holistic rating of five on a 10-point scale by members of the Department;
College Preparatory, Level 4. This curriculum is designed for students whose SDRT Comprehension score is below grade level but not within the remedial range. The most general goal at this level is the strengthening of reading, writing, and language skills in a setting that adjusts instructional tasks, materials, and pace to accommodate observed deficits. At this level, teachers more actively intervene in both the reading and writing processes than they do at the other college-preparatory levels;
Remediation, Level 5. This curriculum is designed for students whose SDRT Comprehension is three or more years below grade. The most general goal at this level is the effective treatment of diagnosed reading and writing deficits by practitioners certified as Reading Specialists or Consulting Teachers of Reading in Massachusetts.
Students at Shawsheen Valley Technical High School have excelled on state-mandated MCAS ELA tests. On the Spring 2010 ELA MCAS test, Shawsheen outperformed all other Massachusetts technical schools as well as all public high school in the five-town sending district. In addition:
- ONE-HUNDRED PERCENT of all Shawsheen sophomores passed the ELA MCAS test in the Spring of 2010 - exceeding the state average.
- NINETY-THREE PERCENT of all Shawsheen sophomores scored within either the Advanced or Proficient range on the Spring 2010 ELA MCAS test.
- Shawsheen sophomores had the fourth highest Median Student Growth Percentile in the entire state on the Spring 2010 ELA MCAS test.
English Language Arts-based extra-curricular activities
Students at Shawsheen Valley Technical High School students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of English Language Arts-based activities including:
- Competing in local and national public speaking contests.
- Contributing to Shawsheen’s literary magazine, Ramblings, which was recognized as the BEST LITERARY MAGAZINE by the Scholastic Press Forum.
- Participating in an on-site “Book Club” which promotes reading and discussion skills.
- Contributing to Shawsheen’s student newspaper, the Ram Page.