Seeking to increase ‘rigor and relevance’ of curriculum, Shawnee Mission replaces several high school classes, maintains IB program

Shawnee Mission will have a notable different slate of high school course offerings next year.
Shawnee Mission will have a notable different slate of high school course offerings next year.

After what district leaders describe as the most extensive review of high school curriculum in a decade, Shawnee Mission has eliminated more than two dozen courses for the coming year that its internal experts determined were not providing opportunities that helped students prepare for college or careers. Replacing those deleted courses are 30 classes leaders believe are better suited to ready students for the modern work environment.

The district’s academic team conducts an annual review of its programs of studies, during which it typically makes a handful of minor tweaks to course offerings. This year, however, top administrators made a detailed review of the classes on offer to high school students and asked hard questions about whether those classes provided meaningful learning opportunities for students.

Gone are classes like “keyboarding and document processing” that were dated and had low enrollment. New are classes like “information technology for careers in public service,” as well as the district’s expanded signature programs, which prepare students for careers in fields like law and biotechnology.

Shawnee Mission’s Chief Academic Officer Ed Streich said this year’s detailed review was spurred by the work of Dr. Willard Daggett, the president of the International Center for Leadership in Education, who came to the district last year and gave a presentation that was streamed to all district employees.

“We really have been on a journey in the district where we’ve internalized Dr. Daggett’s work, to look at the rigor and relevance of everything we offer,” Streich said.

Among the other issues addressed by the review team was the decision to retain the International Baccalaureate program, which had been under scrutiny in the district since this time last year. District leaders said they had heard from students and parents that the variety of honors-level tracks available in Shawnee Mission – from College Now credits to Advanced Placement courses to the IB program — sometimes made it confusing for families to determine the best path for their kids.

Streich said that the review team ultimately determined the IB, which has relatively low enrollment across the three district campuses on which it is offered, gave students a more comprehensive, integrated advanced study experience than the other honors options. In IB classes, students often explore broad themes across a variety of classes, from history and writing to philosophy and math. Each of three schools where IB is offered, SM East, SM Northwest and SM North, will be tasked with developing plans to increase enrollment.

The memo summarizing the changes to the high school course offerings for the 2017-18 school year is embedded below: