Penn State and Tyrone High team up to help students

As a follow-up to Tyrone High’s February English Curriculum Audit, on Thursday, May 18, 2006, six Tyrone High English Teachers and six Penn State English Professors held a two-hour meeting in the Hawthorn Building at Altoona Campus that had two goals – to interpret the Curriculum Audit Conclusions, and to institute some teaching methods that better will prepare Tyrone teenagers for college English.
In February 2006, Tyrone High School Principal Dr. Rebecca Erb commissioned an English curriculum audit, directed by the University of Oregon, which offered several conclusions. First, the college audit concluded that Tyrone English teachers offered most students instruction in 47 of the 73 essential skills needed for university success. Second, the college audit suggested that Tyrone English teachers should make English classes more challenging for all students by providing increased instruction in conducting research, in evaluating sources used to support research, in composing business and personal letters, in proof-reading essays on the computer, in understanding the dangers of plagiarism or copying from someone else, and in studying writings beyond the English speaking world.
After Tyrone’s high school teachers reviewed those English curriculum audit suggestions with Penn State University Professors, the college English instructors suggested that teachers might institute a number of English curriculum changes at Tyrone High. First, high school English teachers gradually should increase the length of most English essays from two pages typed in ninth grade to four or five pages typed in 12th grade. Second, high school English teachers should encourage their students to write no more than one full length essay every couple of weeks, and instead to exert greater amounts of energy in revising, editing and proof-reading the couple of pages they have written with the help of peers, teachers and other adults. Third, high school instructors should underscore the importance of utilizing standard grammar, spelling, and punctuation conventions in all writing. Finally, high school English teachers should insist that students experiment with using different ways to organize and to structure their essays, in addition to the standard five paragraph composition of thesis and several supporting topics.
Penn State’s English professors also suggested that Tyrone High’s English instructors consider some other enhancements to their high school English curriculum. For instance, the college professors recommended that instead of assigning teenagers lengthy outside reading from the Standard Classics of Literature, high school teachers might consider having their students read three to five page articles on controversial public issues, as an inspiration for future writing topics. In addition, the college professors cautioned that high school instructors should exert care and energy in constructing essay assignments, so that teenagers might find themselves more motivated to write. Lastly, university instructors emphasized that both at the high school and the college level, during the rough draft stage of their essays, students should meet with their teachers to gain valuable advice about short-comings of the paper instead of blindly completing the final draft.
Returning to the high school after their two hour meeting with Penn State professors, Tyrone’s senior high English teachers found themselves re-energized to reform Tyrone’s English curriculum based on recommendations of the February curriculum audit and the May seminar with university teachers. The six participating Tyrone teachers decided that one of the best ways to implement change involves regular English Department meetings during next school term. To that end, English department chairperson Stephen Everhart has scheduled meetings for both middle and high school English teachers each nine weeks next year where teachers can talk about topics ranging from Ways to Organize An Essay to How To Supply More Essay Details to Ways to Encourage Student Research to How To Write For Success in College English. Both teachers and professors look forward to changes.