Blended classes were implemented this year in English and social studies classes of the current freshmen. Based on the program’s success, CHS faculty and staff will expand blended classes to both the sophomore and freshman classes for the 2018-2019 school year.
The blended classes initiative began five or six years ago, but the Board of Education didn’t approve it at the time. With the current freshman class, though, CHS faculty and staff have revisited the policy with the support of both the CHCCS Board of Education and the new superintendent. As a result, freshmen English and world history classes at CHS have included students enrolled in honors and standard.
Blended classes consist of both standard and honors students in the same classroom. Honors students are held to a higher standard of work than standard students. Having standard and honors students in the same classroom allows students to better assess which class is right for them.
“Students are exposed first quarter to the teacher and the content, and they and their family can decide if they want to do standard or honors without having to switch classes and schedules at that point,” said Principal Beverly Rudolph.
CHS English teacher Sibel Byrnes will be teaching blended classes for the first time next year. She has never taught blended classes before, but she is ready to do lots of training over the summer to prepare.
“I’m excited because I know how well the ninth grade blended classes have gone, so I’m excited to bring that up into the tenth grade classes,” said Byrnes.
Byrnes explained that in her English classes, she normally does whole class novels. With blended classes, she plans to get more creative with the way she teaches by introducing independent reading and group reading, such as literature circles.
Blended classes also allow students to select their classes free from the influence of their peers, CHS social studies teacher Lisa French explains.
“There is also the benefit that students don’t have to worry about taking a certain course because their friends are taking it. They can still be with their friends, but pick the course that is right for them,” said French.
When walking through the CHS hallways, it’s easy to observe that classes are racially skewed. CHS teachers recognize the importance of having racially diverse classrooms to allow for different points of view to be expressed and see blended classes as a step towards creating that.
“It really does create a learning environment where you are forced to learn from people that are different from you, and that’s part of what an education is,” said Rudolph.
Additionally, the racial grouping that begins in the classroom continues outside of it as students tend to be friends with students they have classes with. This can create cliques based on race — cliques that can foster ignorance about racial and cultural differences.
“From my experience this year, having taught both standard and honors level classes, students tend to get in bubbles here where they don’t interact with students they don’t regularly have classes with. I saw this stratification for the past few years, but with blended classes, I’m not seeing that as much, so I think that on a social level there is more cohesion,” said English teacher Anthony Swaringen.
Rudolph hopes that blended classes can teach students how people different than themselves think and act. She hopes that this understanding and cooperation will facilitate the growth of the kind of adults needed to lead the nation.
“Our society doesn’t know how to talk to people who are different than us culturally or belief-wise. We’re terrible at it. My hope is that, by being in a more diverse atmosphere, students learn multiple points of view,” said Rudolph.
French hopes that blended classes will help students find the class that is right for them as well as improve overall diversity.
“My hope for blended classes is that it will increase the diversity in the classroom and increase the diversity of the students in honors courses,” said French.
Swaringen thinks that blended classes will teach students that everyone grows and improves regardless of whether they start in an honors class or a standard class. He thinks everyone should have access to an honors level education and that it’s important that everyone understands what honors classes entail.
With blended classes’ emphasis on diversity and appropriate placement, faculty hope achievement improves. Understanding other points of view may help students both receive a better education and grow into respectful adults.
Illustration by Ryx Zan