2017–2018 course handbook and curricular changes presented at the Eastern Regional Board of Education meeting


Robert Cloutier made two presentations regarding the 2017–2018 school year at the monthly Eastern Regional High School board of education meeting on Nov. 16, one on curricular changes as a result of the new bell schedule and the 2017–2018 Course Handbook.

The course handbook presentation is usually made in December, but the new bell schedule implemented at the beginning of the 2016 school year made Cloutier and staff his look at more ways they can improve their system for the students and teachers.

“One of the things we are trying to do with our new bell schedule and things we learned when we visited other schools over the last two years is ways to improve our process,” said Cloutier, the district’s director of curriculum, instruction and professional development.

By moving the course selection up by a month, students will be able to start selecting courses in December and meet with guidance counselors in January and February. Their goal is to have the master schedule built by the end of May, which would be a month ahead of where they were in previous years.

The vision statement for the bell schedule initiative is students will be provided a high-quality, individualized educational program within a systematic structure.

“As we look to find ways to improve our program, to maximize the opportunities the new bell schedules offers us, these are some of our goals in the system: providing our students with more choices, more high interest choices, making sure that all our students are achieving and participating, and helping students to grow as independent learners,” Cloutier said.

Cloutier looked at course handbooks from the top high schools in New Jersey, as well as other high schools that have a bell schedule similar to the one they adopted.

“The one thing we learned is that a lot of schools allow students to earn the financial literacy graduation requirement in more than just one course,” he said. “We traditionally have allowed students to earn that through financial literacy only, while other schools allowed to do it in other business courses as well as other social studies courses. We are going to adopt that motto as well.”

Cloutier said he hopes this will give students more flexibility in scheduling by offering it during the school day, since 350 students took the financial literacy course over the summer.

“By expanding that opportunity, I think it will be beneficial for everyone,” he said.

With the new bell schedule, the high school went from seven classes to eight. Because of more classes each day, they created additional electives for the students to give them more choices and flexibility, especially in the art and business departments, while at the same time not overloading the teachers.

One of the new course offerings for seniors is a future teachers program, which would include field experience. Students would be sent to the elementary schools in the sending districts and participate in observations and teach at those schools.

Another offering is a college transition math course, where students can take the equivalent to the developmental math courses at Camden County College.

Other class offerings include Forensics CP Science, Advanced Music Production and Technology, and more English classes such as Short Stories on Film, Creative Writing Seminar and Public Speaking.

The school is expanding its Advanced Placement course offerings with classes such as AP Physics 2, AP Computer Principles and AP Human Geography.

The high school is also looking to expand the art department with the goal of increasing the percentage of students taking art-based classes. Those classes would include Art of Crafts, Art History and Theory, Introduction to Animation and Biomedical Arts and Visualizations.