Roslyn humanities course to expand, meet Common Core needs

Amanda Bernocco

The Roslyn School District has reconfigured its high school English program to accommodate upcoming changes to state curriculum, including the replacement of the current Regents exam with one aligned with Common Core standards.

Josh Cabat, the district’s English department chair, said during a presentation to the Board of Education on Thursday that Roslyn’s freshman humanities course – also known as FroHum – would feature shorter readings that would be analyzed with more depth than the more traditional novels taught in English classes.

“It’s an honors-level world literature class from the beginning of the Enlightenment,” he said. “We start with the Gilgamesh and we move along with history.”

The final English Regents exam is slated to be given this June, with the Common Core exam – a three-part test comprised of reading comprehension passages, a “synthetic” essay in which students are required to cite provided sources and an analytical essay based on a provided text – offered in its place in the coming years. 

Cabat said a more primitive version of Roslyn’s course has been offered for the last four years, but would be coordinated with the new examination requirements, including advanced-placement level comprehension and SAT-quality writing.

“The Common Core Regent is completely different from the regents exams you and I had, or if you have older students through the system, have known,” he said. 

The FroHum course would be open to regents and honors-level students and be taught similarly to a history course, using more historical documents and writings than literary texts, Cabat said.

“In theory, there is no literature [necessary for the exam],” he said. “All the text you need for the exam is on the exam itself.” 

Superintendent of Schools Dan Brenner warned that there would likely be some “pushback” because of the new course, but said an updated FroHum program would be beneficial long-term. 

“I don’t want you to think this is going to come without some pushback because that’s real, and the concerns are real, and the parents coming out with those concerns are coming from a just space,” Brenner said. “We’re confident we’re doing the right thing but I say this upfront because I know you will hear some folks say ‘what are they doing?’”

In-class labs designed to combat this “pushback” would be taught by FroHum teachers and focus on material taught that day and the next day’s lesson plans, Cabat said.

“In other words, they will be explicitly be related to what’s going on in the class at the time,” he said. 

To incorporate the labs in the student’s schedules the labs will take the place of their writing enrichment course that year. Since writing enrichment would remain a graduation requirement, Cabat said students would have to take the course later in their high school careers.

Cabat also confirmed that FroHum labs would not appear on student’s transcripts, which he acknowledged was a concern for parents who don’t want colleges to see that there is remediation for the class. 

“I want the board to understand that I really do think that this is the way to go,” Brenner said. “And I really do believe that things are stepping up and this is a very big way for us to really prepare our students.”

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Amanda Bernocco

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