Teachers and administrators at Rhodes Junior High School in Mesa unveiled a controversial plan aimed at increased enrollment and better preparing students for real-world success.
Under the proposal stressing study of “world cultures, world languages, world issues and world connections,” Rhodes would designate itself an “international school,” said Principal Matt Devlin. With a multicultural focus, the new curriculum would “enhance and renew the student population” while “preparing students for the global culture of the 21st century,” Devlin said Monday night at a parent-teacher meeting.
Students at an international school would take two world languages during seventh grade before picking one to specialize in for the next two years. All classes would focus on studying other cultures through creative tie-ins with current events.
Tom Horne, superintendent of public instruction, said the plan aligns with his desire to see all students eventually taking a foreign language in kindergarten and a third language by the ninth grade. “Students need to know other cultures and their histories so they can better interact with other people in their careers,” he said.
Despite the video presentation and hour-long question-and-answer session, Susan Noble, who has a daughter in eighth grade at the school, remained skeptical. “I send my kids to school to learn how to think, not what to think,” she said.
“Parents send their kids to charter schools to avoid being indoctrinated with different values,” Noble added. “It sounds like they’re going to be training kids to be good little global citizens, as opposed to good American citizens.”
Devlin and a panel of teachers attempted to dispel such fears and answer questions from the nearly 100 parents in attendance. While repeatedly saying that the plan was “strictly in a research and development stage,” Devlin expressed hope for approval of the new curriculum by late November—in time to implement it for next school year.
Similar schools in Wisconsin have resulted in 8 to 12 percent increases in test scores over the last 15 years, Devlin said. In addition, he said, international schools help prepare students to be competitive in the global business world.
Teachers at the school agreed that the shift to an international school was important.
“We are actually in the 21st century, but I don’t know that we are prepared for it yet” said social studies teacher Jeannine Kuropatkin. “This change would allow us to focus on world cultures, global institutions and the connections between students and a global society.”