Upper School Year in Review
Even though summer is thoroughly underway, we wanted to share this Upper School “Year in Review” that was sent to our parents from Mr. Garry Sullivan, Head of Upper School, at the conclusion of the school year. It has a lot of great information and much worth sharing. Enjoy!
THE YEAR IN REVIEW
My goal is to uphold Brookstone’s reputation as The Independent School of Columbus, and I truly believe we are the best school, public or private, in the Columbus area. To make sure we are always striving for excellence, we will continually evaluate what we do and make necessary changes. Our goal, and what we do best, is to educate the whole child in every area of life; that is what makes a Brookstone student stand out in the community. This letter serves as a “year in review” as we review the changes and enhancements we have made to the Middle and Upper School experiences in the areas of curriculum review, daily schedule, and student leadership just to name a few. It is lengthy but has a lot of important information that also helps answer the “Why Brookstone” question.
Academic Focus – Curriculum Alignment
A full curriculum review was performed in the Upper School this past year. To better align our social studies, we are adding World Geography to be offered along with the AP Human Geography course currently available in 9th-grade. We will be adding a new AP course, AP World History, to the 10th-grade offerings for the 2020-2021 school year to be offered with our current World History course, which will be the non-AP social studies course available to 10th-grade students.
In English, we have added an honors section to our 11th-grade English offering. This will allow students not taking an AP English course in their junior year a pathway to take either AP Language or AP Literature during their senior year. In the past, AP Lang was reserved for juniors and AP Lit for seniors with AP Lang being required as a pre-requisite for AP Lit in the senior year. These are two very different courses, and success/failure in one does necessarily translate to the same in the other. As a result and because we allow for flexibility and student growth at Brookstone, we are allowing AP Language to be taken in a student’s junior or senior year. This unique to Brookstone flexibility will allow students to take the course of interest to them when they are ready for it. Another small enhancement to our English department is making sure that the non-AP senior students have a rigorous course option. As a result, we have established a full year English Literature course for non-AP seniors. This course will add rigor to a student’s schedule and will make for a more attractive college application package.
The Daily Schedule
When I started this year at Brookstone, I was asked by the Middle and Upper School faculty to review the daily schedule and collaboratively propose a schedule that would achieve the following:
- Create a schedule with classes of equal length, which makes assigning teachers and students to courses and classrooms more efficient. This consistency also allows for efficient lesson plan preparation.
- Create a schedule that would allow for teachers to see all classes and students every day. Because each class meets daily, it is often easier for students to catch up on missed work and easier for teachers to plan lessons for their various sections and remain on track without certain classes getting too far ahead or falling behind due to missed days.
- Create a schedule that has Middle and Upper School classes on the same rotations. This allows for a more efficient course scheduling process, especially for teachers who teach in both divisions. This will also increase cross-divisional collaboration among teachers.
- Student suggestions have included longer lunch periods and structured time for clubs and leadership groups to meet without taking up their break times for those meetings.
The new schedule achieves the above objectives as well as provides additional benefits. When moving to a seven-period schedule, it is common for each individual class to meet for fewer minutes each day, but because the class meets five days per week without a drop day, the number of instructional minutes actually increases. This means more instructional time for your child with the teachers during the course of the year. It also allows teachers to schedule tests and quizzes more consistently, and because teachers will see all of their classes every day, it reduces the need to assign larger chunks of homework. This will make homework more intentional. Also included in the new schedule will be longer lunch periods for Upper School and time dedicated specifically to student clubs and student leadership committee meeting times. Work periods are now also included to allow students time to get extra help from teachers or simply time to get an early start on homework, reducing the amount of time spent on homework in the evenings while balancing extra-curricular activities.
Adopting a new academic schedule is most successful when it has widespread support among the teaching staff. The evidence is clear that when teachers and administrators share responsibility for improving instruction, the impact on student learning will be greatest. Key to the success of collaborative planning is assuring a balanced review of the options and a full discussion of advantages and disadvantages. This collaboration has taken place and as always, the benefit to the learner has been at the center of our decision-making.
Another advantage of this schedule is that it allows for additional faculty collaboration. As part of a new faculty evaluation system being implemented, peer observations are a vital part of professional development and collaboration. Peer observations are now required and allow teachers to learn from each other, not evaluate each other. With the Middle and Upper School schedules now matched up, teachers will be able to collaborate across divisions and disciplines more effectively, ultimately benefitting the student learning experience. Teachers observing teachers as a form of professional development improves teaching practices and student performance.
Student Leadership Expansion
It has been a productive year. We will always strive to be the best we can be, and we consider the parent partnership we share vital to our success. I would like to thank the Brookstone community for making my first year back in Columbus a fantastic experience. My family and I couldn’t be happier with our decision to move to Columbus, and I look forward to the opportunities next year will bring. I am blessed to be able to lead with such a great group of faculty.
Enjoy well deserved time with your families this summer. In South Africa we’d say have a “lekker” summer holiday; see you next year! As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out if I can help in any way.