Emma Willard School To Offer New Advanced Curriculum
By: Emma Willard School
The faculty at Emma Willard School, an independent girls' high school in Troy, NY, took two years to carefully consider their students' needs with the evolving world's challenging demands. They determined that academically rigorous curricula was not simply loading up on AP™ courses. In the next three years, Emma Willard School is phasing out AP™ courses and creating their own unique advanced learning courses.
Under the guidance of Academic Dean Meredith Legg, PhD, the faculty re-examined teaching and learning methods and also considered research on students and their mental well-being.
"The data is rich on how anxiety and mental health concerns are plaguing today's students, especially girls, pursuing perfection standards. In their desire to get into 'the best' college, students make difficult choices that dampen their curiosity and in some cases bring on too much stress," related Dr. Legg. She added, "Watching our students and recognizing elements in our changing world led us to explore our teaching practices.
"Emma Willard School will focus on what matters most in learning—relevance, enduring understanding, and multidisciplinary connection. Faculty members are developing courses that will challenge our students and fuel their love of learning. Our new program supports each student as she writes her own unique, personal definition of what success is for her.
"Conversations and research took place with the colleges that our students often attend. We wanted to make sure these curriculum changes would have no negative impact on our school's reputation or the perception of our students' abilities. One after another, college admission offices told us that Emma Willard School's reputation is strong and unwavering. The school will clearly articulate the unique advanced learning courses on student transcripts, the school profile, and on college recommendations."
Founded in 1814, Emma Willard School is one of America's oldest academically rigorous college preparatory boarding and day schools for girls. Serving 360 students from 24 states and 36 countries, the school has 53 teaching faculty with 83% holding advanced degrees. 64% of students in grades 10-12 are currently enrolled in one or more AP classes (grade 9 students do not enroll in AP courses).
Teacher Erin Hatton who chairs the science department is excited about the changes. "This new program is going to allow teachers to focus on making classes more student-centered. As we move beyond the AP, instead of using prescribed labs, I envision implementing labs where students are designing an experiment, critically analyzing the data, and drawing conclusions.
"Instead of lecturing students on content in order to fit in as much as possible, I imagine presenting students with a diagram or model and having students ask questions to figure out the underlying concept on their own. In essence, class will be even more engaging and fun!
"We are thinking of providing more inquiry-based classes that include student choice. For example, our neuroscience class scaffolds student learning so by the end of the year the students are comfortable reading peer-reviewed journal articles and teaching the class about the research scientists are performing about the brain!"
"We know these changes will enhance the learning experience at Emma Willard School. We've heard many positive responses from our students and families so we know we are moving in the right direction," stated Dr. Legg.
Suzanne Dewey, Head of Strategic Communications