Curriculum changes due to COVID-19

by Jaesuh Lee & Sarah Wei, News Editors
graphic by Abby Kutin

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused substantial changes to learning models and schedules in schools throughout the Newton Public Schools. As a result, teachers have had to make significant adjustments to their curriculum, affecting students’ education both this school year and in future years.  

Spanish teacher Jennifer Hee said that most teachers have had to cut about 30% of their curriculum in response to the pandemic-related changes . 

“I definitely had to pare down my curriculum this year, simply because we have less time, not to mention that everything takes longer over Zoom,” she said. “We were told to aim for about 60-75% of our typical curriculum, depending on the class.”

Math teacher Amanda Bastien said that the new schedule, and in particular the sudden change in the frequency and length of classes, has been considerably factored into cutting the curriculum. She said that she has considered combining and spending less time on some topics. 

Math and physics teacher Ryan Normandin said that he has also prioritized education he considers essential.  

“I’ve covered less content than in previous years. For the most part, this has been trimming some of the ‘nice to have’ units and focusing on the content most vital for student understanding and success as they move forward,” he said. 

English teacher Cara Shorey said that as learning models continued to shift throughout this school year, teachers were left to manage their curriculums without adequate support from administrators.

“It’s an ongoing theme that administrators and district leaders often issue directives or desires to teachers and don’t acknowledge the amount of work it takes to execute,” she said. “We’re never truly given much training or much help.” 

Although she expected adjustments to the curriculum, parent Rong Le said that she anticipated the changes to be more subtle going into this school year.

“Online teaching should be as effective as in-person learning. I understand the circumstances for last year, but I was expecting that for this year, there would not be any differences in the curriculum from a regular year,” she said.

The effects of this year’s curriculum changes will go beyond this school year. Students looking to change class levels will be particularly affected, as they will face additional obstacles, Bastien said. 

“There would and should be significantly less changing levels next year by the simple fact that we are in a more ambiguous place in terms of accurately assessing,” she said. “As a student, you don’t know what the expectations really are or what being in class actually feels like and as a teacher, you don’t really know what the student is doing at home.”

Hee said that curriculum cuts could redefine the standards of changing levels, as teachers must adjust to assessing students based on a reduced curriculum. 

Sophomore Jaden Chin, who plans to take a higher-level English class next year,  said that he is concerned about the difference in demand the level change may entail.

“It might be hard because the workload from this year is a lot easier than what it will be next year,” he said. “I talked to my teacher about it, as well, to make sure that I am truly ready, but I don’t know if I am,” he said.

Despite concerns from many,  Bastien said that students should not worry about their academic futures due to this year’s curriculum changes. 

“No, you are not ‘falling behind.’ No, you will not be unprepared for future classes. No, this one school year will not change your future success,” she said. “Your teachers have done an excellent job of managing the curriculum and planning to make sure that you covered what you needed to, as well as communicating with next year’s teachers to make sure that they know what to cover if there are any gaps.”