SPS Curriculum More Rigorous than Ever

Kevin Schneider and Stephen Cangelosi study cellular structure in a Biomed I class. Students often wear special "scrubs" uniforms in the Biomed track.

Kevin Schneider and Stephen Cangelosi study cellular structure in a Biomed I class. Students often wear special “scrubs” uniforms in the Biomed track. (photo by Adam Satterlee)

(COVINGTON, La.)  The curriculum at St. Paul’s School has evolved in the past ten years, becoming a constantly more rigorous program.

“In a word, immensely,” said Assistant Principal Joe Dickens regarding how much the curriculum has changed in recent years. “Under the stewardship of Principal Watkins, we have grown to our programs today. Our Engineering, Bio Med, Law Studies, etc., have come from him.

“It is very different than when I started here eleven years ago,” said Dickens, who explained that  Watkins is very good at talking with students and parents regarding student needs.

Principal Trevor Watkins thinks that the current curriculum at St. Paul’s is right in line with the Lasallian principles that govern the school.

“One of the key elements is responding to the needs of the students. That changes over time. As a Lasallian school, we try to respond to what the students need,” Watkins said. “The core classes should be rigorous, because they are core classes. They are basic to everything else. They are must haves. The electives are complementary to the core classes.”

The evolution of the curriculum is not just about core classes and electives, but expands to honors and college credit classes, as well.

“We even have more (Advanced Placement) classes than when I started,” Dickens said, noting that AP World History was added this year, following the addition of AP American History just a few years ago.

Project Lead the Way provides the curriculum and teacher training for the St. Paul's Engineering and Biomed tracks.

Project Lead the Way provides the curriculum and teacher training for the St. Paul’s Engineering and Biomed tracks.

Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) programs represent some of the newer paths added to the SPS curriculum. STEM jobs, according to the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) website, are forecasted to increase by 17 percent by 2017, indicating a need for training in those areas.

“We do not, and have not, envisioned being a STEM school,” said Dickens. “We try to be the best all around school we can be.”

SPS does have STEM certification and looks forward to other additions that PLTW has to offer. The school also looks for other avenues for students to take, like the Law and Business tracks. According to Dickens, St. Paul’s is always looking for new opportunities to expand the curriculum offerings. They are currently looking at adding an AP Chemistry class and a Chinese class.

“The problem with getting new classes is the staffing. We have to get someone to teach the class. We also have to listen to what the students want. They are the most important,” Dickens said.

SPS looks at what past students go into, and they look at what is in high demand, then make decisions accordingly.

“A large percentage of what past students go into are Med School, Engineering Programs, etc.,” Dickens said, noting that SPS is one of the first schools in the area to provide curriculum tracks in these fields.

Classes are offered on a year-to-year basis. SPS looks at how the students react to classes to make sure they fit the needs of the students. According to Dickens, some classes are in high demand each year, and others are not.

“We have Creative Writing, but we haven’t always had that class. In past years, it has been on and off. We have had Psychology classes in the past when demand has been high for it. Engineering has been very popular the past few years, especially the first two years of it,” Dickens said, noting that another very popular track  is the Business path.

“We plan on building on what we already have. A school should never stagnate, and if it does, then were not doing our jobs,” Dickens said. “We are very excited about our classes and we are very excited about the students’ reactions to the new classes.”

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