Northampton Press

Friday, January 24, 2020

Board discusses changes to world languages requirements

Wednesday, November 20, 2019 by Paul Willistein in School

Northampton Area High School’s program of studies has a number of changes proposed for the 2020-21 school year in the titles and descriptions of courses, the requirements for those courses and some content changes in the courses.

Luke Shafnisky, NAHS principal, and Kimberly Levin, NAHS assistant principal, updated Northampton Area School District Board of Education about the program in a one-hour presentation and question-and-answer session at the Nov. 11 meeting in the administration building.

School directors are reviewing the program of studies. It’s uncertain when the program will be on a board meeting agenda for a vote.

The topic that generated the most discussion among school board members and administrators is the removal of the requirement for a student to take a world language course as part of the 24 credits needed for a student to receive an NAHS diploma.

Pennsylvania removed the world language requirement for high school graduation across the commonwealth.

“This year’s class is the last year for three years of languages,” Levin said.

“Students are not required to have a world language,” NASD Superintendent of Schools Joseph S. Kovalchik said.

“Theoretically, if a student wants to attend college and has no world language, notwithstanding, that application will be thrown in the trash,” school Director Chuck Longacre said.

“Personally, I think there should be a requirement for world language,” Kovalchik said.

“I agree. It could put some students behind the eight-ball,” school Director Robert Mentzell said. “We have an obligation to the whole kid. I think we should have this conversation moving forward. We have to mold the entire kid, and world languages is part of the recipe,” Mentzell said.

“The path they choose in ninth grade is not necessarily where they’re going to be in their career,” school Director Dr. Michael Baird said.

One challenge in requiring a world language to be taken as a graduation requirement pertains to NAHS students enrolled at Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School because the round-trip travel time between the BAVTS campus and NAHS campus cuts into classroom periods time.

“We saw groups of students in vo-tech that were not meeting requirements,” NASD Assistant Superintendent Robert J. Steckel Jr. said. “Often times, our vo-tech students graduate with 29 to 30 credits.”

“A lot of vo-tech students do take world languages,” Levin said.

The 2020-21 NAHS program of studies updates include an adjustment of new administrative staff and department chairs; explanation of Child Find from the special education department; clarification of the Keystone Exam remediation and intervention plan; removal of morning and afternoon courses; and Graduation Pathways in effect for the Class of 2022 and beyond per Act 158.

Changes in the 2020-21 program of studies include those for business and computer technology, English, family and consumer sciences, fine and digital arts, health and physical education, mathematics, music, science, social studies, special education, world languages and BAVTS.

Work on the 2020-21 program of studies began Aug. 27 with a discussion with principals. Meetings with department chairs were held Aug. 28-Sept. 13. Revised course descriptions and adjustments were made by Oct. 7.

“We had a lot of people involved, more so than last year,” Levin said.

Proposed changes were presented to the guidance department Oct. 8 and then to the curriculum and special education administrations Oct. 16 and 28.

The NASD school board’s next meeting is 6:30 p.m. Nov. 25 in the administration building, 2014 Laubach Ave., Northampton.