We Heard You: New Courses and Big Improvements for 2017-2018
Over the past year, we have fielded feedback from hundreds of parents and students about how Williamsburg Learning is changing your lives. We love our families, and your feedback always motivates us to be our best! Over the past year, we asked parents and students how we might dial in our program even further to meet your needs. As we processed the high-quality feedback you gave us, we identified a common denominator running through most of it: you would like to see if we can provide more flexibility while still preserving the quality you’ve come to trust.
Armed with that feedback, we identified several potential improvements and took them to our Parent Advisory Committee, which is comprised of over 50 parents from WL schools. Together, over the course of multiple rounds of surveys, we refined our ideas and settled on the following list of improvements.
The list is rather long this year because many of these improvements needed to be lumped together and executed simultaneously. Because there are so many updates this year, I created a short video (1:00 – 3:00 in length) to explain each update in the post below.
If you have questions or concerns about any of these improvements, you can email me, James Ure, at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.
On behalf of our team, we hope these improvements make the Williamsburg program even more beneficial to your family and that the 2017–18 is our best year ever. Fall/Winter registration opens Tuesday, April 18th; we’ll send you a reminder when it’s open. If you are at LAU or LANV, watch for further instructions from your school director about how to register for classes this year.
President, Williamsburg Learning
PS: You are on the Williamsburg Learning website, which is where we will share information that applies to all WL schools, like this message. To visit your school’s website after reading this blog post, click the link below.
- How Do Classic and Honors Courses Work?
- How Do I Register For Classic and Honors Courses?
- Which Version Is Right For My Student(s)?
- In Which Courses Are Classic and Honors Versions Available?
- We Have Strategically Aligned to Computer Tech Standards
- Personal Leadership B Now Meets Fitness For Life Standards
- More Space for Electives
- Redistributed High School Math Topics
- What is the Solution?
- What About Students Who Have Already Taken Algebra 1 and Need Geometry?
- What Happens to Euclidean Geometry?
- What If Students Want to Transfer to Other Schools?
- What If I Really Need to Take “Algebra” or “Geometry” For Some Reason?
Middle school is a magical time and The Williamsburg Curriculum for grades 6–8 revolves around creating a love of learning within our students. High school is a phase in which students sharpen their passions and The Williamsburg Curriculum for grades 9–12 revolves around deepening students’ scholarship and helping them achieve goals that prepare them for college and, more importantly, life. In both middle and high school, we are committed to helping parents find the right level of depth for each student in each stage of development. We are therefore very excited to announce that beginning this fall we will offer both “Classic” and “Honors” versions of many of our live, core courses in grades 6–8 and 9–12.
Students in both Classic and Honors courses attend the same live class sessions at the same time. Students are not even aware of which version their classroom peers are taking. Students in Honors courses have roughly 30% more and/or more difficult readings and assignments in Canvas than students in Classic courses, taking them deeper into the subject. Finally, as is common practice, high school honors courses are offered in a 4.5 GPA scale instead of the standard 4.0 GPA scale. This ensures that student GPAs accurately reflect the difficulty of courses taken. Please note that this Honors GPA scale applies only to WL schools. Other schools using The Williamsburg Curriculum may or may not have an Honors GPA scale.
During registration, parents register students for either the Classic or Honors version of a relevant course, depending on students’ needs.
The Classic version of a course is a good fit for students who want to free up space in their schedule. Students might want to free up space for several reasons, including:
- Freedom to participate in other programs and extracurriculars
- Freedom to go deeper in other areas of interest
- Time to process what they’re learning in the course in question without being overwhelmed by assignments and reading
The Honors version of a course is a good fit for students who want more depth and/or breadth in the subject area. Students can switch from one version to the other until 21 calendar days after the first day of the semester.
In grades 6–8, we are offering Honors and Classic versions of all Humanities and STEM courses. In grades 9–12, we are offering Honors and Classic versions of all Social Studies and Language Arts courses. Eventually, we plan to rollout standard and honors versions of our Math and Science courses as well. The Honors version of these courses are very similar to the 2016–17 versions of the courses, and the Classic versions are pared down as described above. Beginning 2017–18, we will also systematically identify students who need more than what the Honors versions of these courses provide and offer these students additional and deeper work to complete.
We believe that offering Classic and Honors versions of our courses responds to parents’ requests for more flexibility while preserving Williamsburg’s rigor and quality. We hope this new level of flexibility and adaptability serves your family well.
Not all high school students taking honors courses will choose to officially join Williamsburg’s Honor Society. High school students who do want to participate must take at least two honors courses each semester.
Students in grades 10–12 at Williamsburg Academy, Leadership Academy of Utah, and Leadership Academy of Nevada have the opportunity to participate in their school’s Honor Society. Students in any of these societies are automatically part of the Williamsburg Learning Honor Society, a collection of honors students from all schools. These students enjoy membership in the National Honor Society, receive additional academic opportunities and leadership training, and graduate with the Honors distinction on their diploma. In September, students will be notified about how and when to apply. To qualify, students must:
- Be enrolled in a Williamsburg Learning school. Students accessing The Williamsburg Curriculum through schools other than LAU, LANV, and WA (private pay) can email Tasha Allred (Tasha@williamsburglearning.com) about whether they can qualify for participation
- Have already earned at least three credits in The Williamsburg Curriculum
- Have a GPA of 3.75 or higher (not including transfer credits)
- Be enrolled in at least two Honors courses each semester
- Provide evidence, as directed, of service, leadership, and character
- Be admitted by a majority of the Honor Society Faculty Council
Live courses are not always the best option for many high school students but have previously been the only option for most Williamsburg courses. Consider students who:
- Live in foreign time zones
- Need a slower or faster pace than provided in live classes
- Have scheduling conflicts with available live class sessions
- Have a schedule that is conducive to bursts of school work rather than sustained, daily school work, such as students who are traveling abroad or doing an internship
- Compete in a sport or art, the practice of which consumes most of a school day, leaving evenings for school work
- Prefer a very streamlined, flexible version of a course in one subject so they have the space to go much deeper in a more demanding live course in another subject
- Need to repeat a course for some reason and are looking for a simple option
This year, we are thrilled to announce that we have developed self-paced versions of core courses for all social studies, literature, and leadership courses in grades 9–12. These courses include high-quality video content from live class recordings that we have edited down to the best stuff. They include fewer assignments which have been simplified and streamlined specifically for self-paced courses. Students and parents are provided weekly updates on pacing and students have until the end of each semester to complete all work in the course.
These new self-paced courses are streamlined versions of the Classic courses; they have fewer assignments and are less tuition, yet preserve the Williamsburg quality you depend on while providing a new level of flexibility and simplicity. We are very excited about the choice these courses create for our families! (Our existing self-paced science and math courses will remain essentially the same this year as they have been in prior years.)
Please note that students at LANV and LAU must take at least three live courses per semester.
Our students have a surprisingly broad range of interests and talents and for a long time we have wanted to expand our elective offerings to help them develop in these areas. We are excited to announce a new array of technology and elective offerings for high school students beginning this fall. We have categorized our new and existing electives into five “emphases.”
Students may complete any courses listed below at any time during their high school experience to satisfy required elective credits. Beginning this fall, students also have the option of earning a graduation “emphasis” by completing any two credits from an emphasis listed below (all courses are 0.5 credit each). Emphases are listed on student’s diplomas and provide students opportunities to distinguish themselves on college applications.
Middle school students may enroll in high school electives with permission from the School Director, who will want to ensure a student can succeed in all his or her courses.
Some courses listed below may also satisfy required courses in core programs. When this is the case, students cannot use the same credit to both satisfy a core requirement and work towards earning an emphasis. For example, if a student takes Precalculus A/B to satisfy required math credits, that course will not also count towards earning a Science & Math emphasis in the Electives program. Additionally, while students may earn more than one Elective emphasis, a course listed in multiple categories can only count towards one emphasis.
Science & Math
Concepts of Engineering & Technology
Earth Science A/B
Independent Elective Courses (that fall under Science & Math as determined by Electives program leader)
Python Programming 1
Python Programming 2
Python Programming 3
Web Development 1
Web Development 2
WordPress: Build Your Own Online Portfolio
Independent Elective Courses (that fall under Technology as determined by Electives program leader)
Entrepreneurship: Starting Your Business
International Business: Global Commerce in the 21st Century
Law & Order: Introduction to Legal Studies
For-Credit Williamsburg Adventures
WordPress: Build Your Own Online Portfolio
Independent Elective Courses (that fall under Entrepreneurship as determined by Electives program leader)
Beauty of Music
Fashion & Interior Design
WordPress: Build Your Own Online Portfolio
Introduction to Culinary Arts
Independent Fine Arts Courses (that fall under The Arts as determined by Electives program leader)
Take 2.0 credits of the same second language
For high school students to benefit from new tech and elective offerings they need space in their schedule to take these courses. We are aware that between our rigorous core courses and additional required leadership courses students have little time for electives. Our goal is to strategically create more space for electives while strengthening rather than weakening the quality and integrity of the overall academic experience. This year we are excited to introduce a couple of simple tweaks to graduation requirements that move the needle the right direction. In addition to creating space by providing students the option of taking Classic rather than Honors versions of courses, we have also made the following optimizations:
Computer Technology is a required course for graduation that teaches basic computer literacy. We have created a new strategy that allows students at WL schools to earn this credit without taking a stand-alone Comp Tech course.
- LAU and WA – Personal Leadership is our flagship course and we have discovered that with minimal tweaks it satisfies Comp Tech standards. So students at LAU and WA who complete Personal Leadership in Fall, 2017 or later do not need to take a separate stand-alone Comp Tech course. We will offer a streamlined self-paced version of this course for students who have completed Personal Leadership A but have not yet completed Comp Tech.
- LANV (Nevada students only) – Nevada allows Comp Tech to be taken in middle school. With only minor adjustments to our middle school Typing course (see “Typing is now Typing and Tech” below) that course now satisfies the Comp Tech requirement for Nevada students. Only Fall, 2017 or later instances of Typing and Tech satisfy Comp Tech standards. We will offer a streamlined self-paced version of Comp Tech for high school students who need this credit this year.
Our Personal Leadership B course has long emphasized physical, mental, and emotional health. With minor enhancements, we have now aligned the 2017–18 course to meet standards for Fitness for Life, a PE course required for graduation. Personal Leadership B will teach the same leadership principles and will still be considered part of our Leadership Program. This is simply a strategic alignment that increases flexibility for students. This change is NOT retroactive. Students who completed Personal Leadership B before Fall, 2017 still need to complete our self-paced Fitness for Life course to graduate.
Students will still take the same leadership courses in the same order, but with these strategic adjustments, students essentially have an additional 1.0 credit to take the elective courses of their choice. Same level of quality, increased flexibility.
Our high school math program has come a long way and we still have many ideas for improvements. One perennial challenge has to do with the differences between how our students move through Geometry as compared to Algebra. These differences include:
- Geometry concepts tend to be far easier for our students to grasp than algebraic concepts.
- Geometry has roughly 40% fewer topics than algebra, creating an “easy” math year when students are taking Geometry and a really challenging year when students are taking algebra. This is especially problematic because the difficult Algebra year hits freshmen, who are really academically vulnerable.
- From a curriculum development standpoint, Geometry lends itself more naturally to blending in classical math concepts than algebra.
After assessing all the options, we have decided to create balance in the universe by redistributing high school math topics. We will cover geometry and algebra concepts in both 9th and 10th grades. We have found natural alignment between the topics we are combining each year and are excited to merge the classical topics we cover in Euclidean Geometry into 9th and 10th-grade math.
To keep things simple we are renaming our math courses as follows:
- High School Math 1 (this course covers the first half of geometry and basic algebra)
- High School Math 2 (this course covers the second half of geometry and basic algebra)
- High School Math 3 (this course is the same as Algebra 2, or advanced algebra)
- Precalculus will still be called Precalculus
Our math mentors, especially those who teach algebra and geometry, are excited about this shift, and we believe it will resolve the perennial problem we have experienced with the disproportionate difficulty between our geometry and algebra courses. Many families in our program have already been taking courses in this sequence and report that it resolves the problems described above.
Please see the table below and note that in 2017 we will offer a stand-alone, live version of Geometry for one more year and will not begin offering High School Math 2 until Fall, 2018.
No worries. Here’s the simple plan for phasing in these changes. Whatever you took in 2016 will determine what you take in 2017 and beyond. We will offer Geometry as a stand-alone course one final year.
|Taken in 2016||Take in 2017||2018||2019||2020|
|Pre-alg||HS Math 1||HS Math 2||HS Math 3||Precalculus|
|Alg 1||Geometry||HS Math 3||Precalculus|
|Geometry||HS Math 3||Precalculus|
We are no longer offering Euclidean Geometry as a stand-alone course, but there’s no need for a funeral. The magic students love in this course is being merged into High School Math 1B and 2B. Euclidean Geometry was the only honors math course we offered, and we are sad to let go of it for that reason, but we plan to eventually offer a full suite of honors math courses that include classical elements. Please see the table above and note that in 2017, we will offer a stand-alone, live version of Geometry for one more year and will not begin offering High School Math 2 until Fall, 2018.
Schools in Utah and Nevada will receive these updated courses as named without any issues because merging Algebra and Geometry is trending in these states. Most schools in other states are aware of this trend and will know how to transfer in these courses as well. For transfer purposes, the courses generally align as follows:
|Course Name||Content Covered|
|HS Math 1 A||Algebra A|
|HS Math 1 B||Geometry A|
|HS Math 2 A||Algebra B|
|HS Math 2 B||Geometry B|
|HS Math 3 A||Algebra 2 A|
|HS Math 3 B||Algebra 2 B|
No worries. In 2017 we will offer a stand-alone, live version of Geometry for one more year. And we will still offer Algebra A/B, Geometry A/B, and Algebra 2 A/B as both self-paced and independent courses to accommodate your needs.
We are changing the name of our Writing 9 course (both the Classic and Honors version) to “Writing and Rhetoric” and enhancing it with a multi-layered, broader emphasis in Language Arts, including elements of rhetoric. The Honors version already includes some of these elements so the changes will be most noticeable in the Classic version of the course.
This new emphasis will help us make several key improvements at once, including the following:
- The Classic version will more deeply engage students who don’t consider themselves to be “writers.” The Classic course will still teach communication skills but within a framework of themed units that speak to students’ inherent passions and interests. For example, in one unit students will ask the question: What are life lessons I can learn from others? This unit will focus on memoir, biography, and speeches. Each unit will engage students in critical thinking while teaching essential “how-to” communication skills. Students will be held to a high standard and will practice skills through multiple iterations until they are mastered. The Honors version is still the right fit for students who consider themselves to be natural writers or have already acquired high school writing skills.
- The course now includes creative, rhetorical, and literary elements, a recognition that academic writing alone is not sufficient to prepare students to lead in the 21st century. We have decided that we will no longer offer Public Speaking or Debate as stand-alone courses. Instead, we are harvesting the most engaging and important concepts from these courses for inclusion in “Writing and Rhetoric.” Students will learn rhetorical analysis from a literary perspective and will also apply elements of rhetoric to their own communication. Students will complete academic essays and either a creative story or a public speech.
- Students will continue to learn the rules of basic punctuation, but we’ve expanded our scope to include other essential usage skills. Most importantly, the course will focus on rules of writing etiquette in a digital age, such as texting, emailing, blogging, and determining the reliability of sources found online.
Our main objective is to help students of all skill levels build a bridge of connection to Language Arts. This new course will help students see that effective and compelling communication, including writing, is not necessarily a gift with which one is born, but a set of skills that can be learned. We believe this more balanced approach will nourish students’ hearts as well as expand their skills, fostering a love of all types of communication.
Our Middle School Typing course is now “Typing and Tech.” Students practice their typing skills and meet once a month in a live class session. Beginning Fall 2017, the course includes a more intentional emphasis on middle school tech skills such as using spreadsheets and creating excellent presentations. It also includes important leadership skills such as Internet safety and developing personal accountability in an online environment. We are excited to give our middle school students even better preparation for leading and thriving in the 21st century. This course also now meets Comp Tech requirements in the state of Nevada (see “We Have Strategically Aligned to Comp Tech Standards” above).