During last week’s Board meeting for the month of May, our Education Team proposed the following class offerings/changes for consideration for adoption in the 2017-18 school year. The stated purpose of these changes was to address a number of issues in our current academic schedule, many of which have come to our attention through multiple conversations with students, parents, and teachers in ongoing discussions on how to improve what we do at Petra.
All of these proposals were researched among other Association of Classical and Christian Schools and carefully considered over many months by our administrative and teaching staff. Both our administration faculty and our teachers agreed that these proposals were the best solutions to these academic issues, and on the heels of much good and honest discussion at the Board meeting last Tuesday, I’m pleased to report that each of the proposals passed. They are:
Problem: For the past several years, our Humanities teachers have noticed a lack of Biblical knowledge in the secondary, especially among (but not limited to) transfer students.
Solution: Add a 2x/week Old Testament class in 7th grade and an 2x/week New Testament class in the 8th grade. These classes will survey the canon of Scripture, study the thematic and doctrinal unity of Scripture, and develop students’ abilities to read, understand, and apply Scripture to their own lives and their studies.
Problem: Due to the amount of material to be covered in our Humanities classes, writing instruction in the Secondary has not been systematic or comprehensive. As a result, several students continue to struggle with issues of crafting arguments, arrangement, style, and writing process.
Solution: Change 9th grade Material Logic class to a Classical Composition class.
Note: Currently, Material Logic consists of a review of 8th grade Formal Logic, followed by a series of essay assignments on apologetics issues. These essays focused primarily on argumentation, but not the other aspects of writing. The curriculum for Classical Composition will shore up students’ logic skills by training them not only in crafting logically sound arguments, but also expressing them in the most persuasive way.
11th Grade Course Load
Problem: For several years, students have remarked about how much more difficult the junior year workload is compared to the sophomore workload. This is due primarily to the relative ease of the 10th grade classes compared with the 11th grade classes, especially Rhetoric, Trigonometry, and Chemistry.
Solution: Implementing the previously-approved math tracking program (see Board packet from April 2017) in the 11th grade year will alleviate the homework load for juniors in the standard math track, who will take Algebra II instead of Trigonometry. Another needed solution is to switch when Biology and Chemistry are offering, moving Chemistry to 10th grade and Biology to 11h grade.
Note: Other ACCS schools (i.e. The Oaks and Ambrose specifically) offer Chemistry in 10th grade, and the prerequisite math for Chemistry is basic Algebra, which all students will have taken by 10th grade.
Dual Enrollment for Computer Science II
Problem: The students of our first Computer Science class missed the dual enrollment opportunity provided for this year’s Computer Science class. And the current dual enrollment students are very excited about computer programming and eager to continue growing in their knowledge of this subject.
Solution: Offer Computer Science II as a dual enrollment class for all students who have taken Computer Science I. All of next year’s juniors and seniors will be eligible for this class and its dual enrollment opportunity through Montana State University.
12th Grade Course Offering
Problem: Our current senior class offerings require students to choose between Physics/Calculus and Economics/Government classes. The math/science track is demanding, but so is the econ/govt track, which requires students to do Humanities-style reading and discussion in addition to their normal Humanities and Aesthetics reading. The following changes to our senior class offerings address several issues.
Streamline Rhetoric II as a 2x/week class – At the recommendation of Ginny Owens, our Rhetoric teacher, the senior thesis project could be taught in a 2x/week class. This focuses all the instruction and student work on the researching, planning, writing, preparation, and delivery of the senior thesis, the capstone project of a Petra Academy education.
Offer Civics as a 3x/week class – Civics is an important class for all students to take, especially as it helps shore up their knowledge of 19th and 20th century American history. Civics will be offered the same period as Rhetoric II, on the days Rhetoric II does not meet.
Move Aesthetics material into Humanities 12 – Due to several overlaps in content between Humanities 12 and Aesthetics, it makes good sense to combine these into the same class. Making Civics a required class also allows us to move some of the Humanities 12 political philosophy materials into Civics. This eliminates any unnecessary redundancy among these three classes.
Add Survey of Mathematics class to help seniors shore up math skills – This was addressed (and approved) in the math tracking proposal, but it is extremely important for seniors to take a math class. First, math is a subject worth studying for its own beauty, but also for the way it trains our minds to think and reason. Second, most colleges and universities require students to take math classes, so seniors need at least to shore up their math skills their 12th grade year. This Survey of Mathematics course reviews important concepts from Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry.
Offer Spanish III in 12th grade – The above changes result in an empty period. Spanish III is the best class offering for this slot, as it enables students to take one more language class with the emphasis on grammar review, cultural study, and conversation.
These proposed adjustments and additions are organized together in our tentative Secondary schedules and Electiva listings.
As Headmaster, I’m grateful to be leading a school committed to the ancient pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty with a willingness to work for improvement in doing so. Thank you to our Petra Board, faculty and staff, and parents and students for helping to propel us forward in our mission, striving to awaken love and wonder in our students for the flourishing of humanity and the renown of Jesus the Christ.