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Radnor's Integrated Programs Grow Insightful Students

Why are the integrated programs at Radnor are so important?

As a senior at Radnor High School, I’ve been lucky. The education I and my classmates receive on a daily basis is some of the best in the country. The teachers are innovative, creative, engaging, and supportive. The projects, activities, and classes cater to every student’s desires. But I’ve been especially lucky to be a part of the integrated program here at Radnor High School.

While many students take honors English and honors history, for those students that want a special sort of challenge the high school offers the integrated classes. Integrated Western Civilization is offered freshman year, Global Issues is offered sophomore year, Viewpoints on Modern America is offered junior year, and Senior Seminar (obviously) is offered senior year. Each class is special and each class offers something different. But the class is set up with two teachers teaching back to back periods. The class size ranges from 25-40 depending on the interest that year in the course. Having a combined eighty-four minutes of class allows for the teachers to combine ideas and collaborate, achieving a level of cohesion not possible in other classes.

The problem facing the integrated programs at the high school right now is the proliferation of the numerical hierarchy in society. Society is so test-geared and flocks to numbers as a sign of success that the real success in high school – learning – is lost. The U.S. News and World Report – the organization that rates high schools annually – uses a combination of AP classes divided by AP scores, honors and AP classes offered, and other numbers related data to come up with their rankings. This means that programs like the integrated programs which provide some of the best education in Radnor are in danger of disappearing as more and more AP classes get phased in. These classes will potentially boost Radnor’s profile and ranking, but at what cost? We as students will lose out on some of the best, most formative education that Radnor has to offer.

The integrated classes teach communication, group collaboration, writing, reading, interpreting text through the lens of history or vice versa. In fact Global Issues is to this day the most formative class I’ve ever taken. My sophomore year I took Global Issues, which was taught by Mr. Ken Sklar (now retired) and Mr. TJ Neary. From the summer before the class started until the day after finals we pushed it. Every class ran just a little bit late. But it fueled my passion for International Relations and Public Policy. I had joined the Model United Nations team at the end of freshman year, but as my sophomore year unfolded I found myself getting better and better as I had a better understanding of the topics I was discussing.

I graduate high school in six months. I plan to study International Relations, Political Science, and Public Policy in college. Global Issues watered the seed that already existed in me. I’ll never forget the integrated classes at the high school that helped create the person I am today: a debater, a writer, a speaker, a critical analyst of history and literature. Thank you to the teachers I’ve had. Thank you to Mr. Trevor Payne and Mr. Richard Dunbar who I had for Integrated Western Civilization. Thank you to Mr. Ken Sklar and Mr. TJ Neary who I had for Global Issues. Thank you to Mr. Carl Rosin and Mr. Paul Wright who I had for Viewpoints on Modern America. And thank you to Mrs. Jessica Verguldi-Scott and Mrs. Melisa Civitella who I have currently for Senior Seminar. These eight teachers are the foundation of my success going out into the world. Radnor must maintain and grow their integrated programs. It would be doing a disservice to the students of Radnor High School if these programs are disbanded in favor of more “ratable” classes.

Annie Webb December 12, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Chris, I hope you join in the focus groups conducted by the search team for our new Superintendent. Your voice and other students' voices are so important in this search. Excellent article.
Gary Merken December 12, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Integrated programs should be the norm, not the exception. There is no reason that the teaching of reading and writing should not be combined with the teaching of math, science, and history. Students are more than capable of being taught to critically analyze primary historical documents and to write about them in the context of history. Students are more than capable of being taught to read Euclid and Newton and Einstein and apply their theories in the classroom. Develop a semester-long curriculum devoted to cooking, which integrates reading, writing, science, math, geography, world cultures, foreign languages, and practical life skills. Radnor Middle School students are fortunate to be offered the chance to enroll in the sixth-grade Crossroads program, the seventh-grade Watershed program, and the eighth-grade Soundings and Gateways programs. These programs should be expanded so that all students who to enroll can do so. Better yet, integrate the entire middle-school curriculum. Think how much better prepared our students will be!
Jamie Wiedmann December 13, 2012 at 04:49 AM
As a sophomore at Radnor High School, in my 4th year of integrated, I can safely say I have learned more in these classes than in any other class. Over the years my classmates and I have had remarkable opportunities, attending conferences and going on field trips, learning through artwork. No, I may not be able to explain the process of meiosis but I could tell you anything you wanted to know about the western world from the fall of the Roman Empire until World War II. I came to Global Issues with very little prior knowledge of global issues, but I knew if I wanted to understand the subject GI was the place to be. We are only four months into the school year I already have a much better understanding of the Middle East. The best, most in depth and thought provoking debates, conversations, presentations I have ever been a part of were all from an integrated class. These classes teach you teamwork. It is so great to be able to hear your classmates points of view, maybe you'll learn something new or you'll have a chance to defend your opinion. The teachers don't drill facts into your head so you can ace a test and be done. We learn simply by talking. I would not be the student I am today without integrated. Every student deserves a chance to learn this way. Grades don't mean much to me, because at the end of an integrated class it's amazing to see just how much you've learned, that means more than any letter.

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