Watertown High School will be offering some new courses next year, and the graduation requirements will be changing for incoming freshmen. Also, the school is trying to prevent plagiarism by high-tech methods.
On Monday, the School Committee heard about the changes to the Watertown High School Course of Studies from WHS Principal Joel Giacobozzi. Some changes were made to get the high school in line with the state’s recommended graduation requirements, and one came out of a student initiative.
“Fine, applied and performing arts added Dance and Choreography Workshop,” Giacobozzi said. “We are excited about that. That was a student generated course that our staff worked diligently to create a description for.”
The school has added a course that will expose students to what happens in life science companies: Honors Genetics and Biotechnology. Giacobozzi said the course will allow students to learn about some of what goes on in the biggest new industry in town, biotechnology.
“We want to share in that cutting edge, so we have partnered with many labs and students are becoming interested in it,” Giacobozzi said. “It has generated an excitement around biotech. We couldn’t be more excited. Last Thursday, we had six to seven members of local labs come in and speak to our students and start to develop a longer term partnership that we couldn’t be more proud of.”
A growing program at WHS is the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Chapter 74 program in Medical Assisting. Additional classes have been added so student can continue to complete that course.
A couple new classes were added for students who come into the school needing the basics.
“We are blessed to have more and more students coming to us from outside the United States without taking English as a second language yet,” Giacobozzi said. “We are excited to offer them foundation courses that will bring them up to speed in their second language acquisition”
Some students arrive at WHS with little or no math education, so Topics in Algebra was added to help them.
“This is being used for students coming to us with limited or interrupted education, so there is no formal math education in their background, Giacobozzi said. “So we are excited to offer them a course that allows them to get acclimated before jumping into the deeper water of some of the more advanced courses.”
Students will have to take World History in order to graduate, Giacobozzi said, which brings the school inline with the state’s MassCore. The requirement does not impact students already at the school, and would begin with the incoming freshmen class in the fall of 2023.
MassCore is a state-recommended program of study intended to align high school coursework with college and workforce expectations, according to the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website.
“We, like most other schools, need to add World History as a one-year requirement. We are behind that is affecting things like our State report card,” Giacobozzi said.
Right now, students must take U.S. History 1 and 2, and then must take one more social studies class, but it does not need to be World History.
“Our History Department and I agree that that wholeheartedly is not producing a global citizen, so we feel that World History as a graduation requirement is a necessary addition,” Giacobozzi said.
Currently, few students graduate without taking World History, Giacobozzi said.
School Committee Chair Kendra Foley thanked Giacobozzi and the school for matching the requirements to MassCore. She said she noticed other areas where WHS does not match the state’s standards, including taking two years of World Language, a.k.a. foreign language.
Giacobozzi said that currently only 28 students would graduate without taking World Language, and only seven would not meet MassCore solely for that reason.
The school is also making sure that it is counting all the courses it can to meet MassCore, such as students in the Chapter 74 program which automatically meet the MassCore Standards.
“No excuses that we are missing MassCore by as much as we are, but as I look deeply into a problem I am not afraid to take on I see we are leaving some money on the table,” Giacobozzi said, who added that the school will also look closer into student records to see if more students meet the standard.
One other addition to the Course of Study is the definition of plagiarism, which now includes high-tech methods of not doing original work.
“For those in education, ChatBot makes us shudder a little bit. It is a robot that writes pretty well, so what we are doing is getting a little ahead of it,” Giacobozzi said.
WHS added a line to the plagiarism section saying computer-generated language is not your own.
“We feel it is important for students to learn to use technology appropriately but we don’t feel it is appropriate for it to write your entire term paper,” Giacobozzi said. “Admittedly, it is getting more difficult to rout them out so we are adding it to our Course of Studies.”