English 9 Honors for All

Everything you need to know about Oakton's English 9 Program

By English Department

All freshman at Oakton High School were enrolled in English 9 Honors for the 2016-2017 school year. The following resources on this page will provide you with information regarding the decision for this change.

English 9 Honors Presentation


English 9 Honors Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why is the class labeled English 9 Honors, rather than just English 9?

  • We are writing our curriculum based on the FCPS Program of Studies. The extensions designated as “Honors” involve engaging students to make a personal connection with course skills and content. All students should be challenged to make those kinds of personal connections.
  • 80% of freshmen take at least one honors class, so they already perceive themselves to be Honors students. We want to extend that confidence to the English 9 curriculum.
  • SOL data from 11th grade indicates that our students are more than capable of accessing English 9 Honors curriculum.

What support systems are in place to help students who might struggle?

  • Standards based grading and reassessment policy allow students basically unlimited attempts to demonstrate mastery. Students need not feel pressure to “succeed” or “achieve” on the first try.
  • Cougar time embedded in the regular school day ensures that students needing additional guidance/one-on-one time with teacher/time to complete work have a specific time each day set aside for that.
  • The Center for Collaborative Learning is a peer-tutoring center where students can receive additional support on assignments. More information about the Center can be found on their website: https://ohsthecenter.wordpress.com/about-the-center/.

Will the class be less rigorous because all students, regardless of ability are enrolled?

  • Even in previous years, the FCPS open enrollment policy has meant that students were enrolled in Honors by choice, regardless of ability. Teachers are already well practiced in helping ALL students set rigorous learning goals and then meet or exceed them.
  • Standards based grading combined with student choice and voice allow teachers to differentiate learning activities to meet the learning needs of individual students. All students will be challenged to engage with reading, writing, speaking, and listening in new and meaningful ways.

What if a student does not want to take English 9 Honors?

  • According to the Fairfax County Program of Studies, the most salient difference between the objectives for English 9 and English 9 Honors is that English 9 students will simply engage with skills, while Honors students will engage with the skills while making a personal connection. All students can benefit from being challenged to make that personal connection, regardless of their perceived academic ability.
  • There is no drill and lecture and high stakes testing. Classrooms are used as workshops in which students will have the chance to think and work individually and collaboratively toward skill mastery with assistance from the teacher. Volume does not equal rigor.

I am worried that the honors label will create stress for my student.

  • Student stress has been the focus of Oakton collaborative learning team discussions for a number of years. Teachers are cognizant of students who might be overwhelmed, especially during the transition from middle to high school. The ninth grade team makes it a point to be flexible and understanding with all students.
  • The Oakton grading and assessment policy that eliminates the “zero” and allows for reassessment is designed to relieve stress and give students more than one opportunity to display understanding and achieve mastery.
  • Standards Based Grading is another layer protecting students from stressful one-time, high-stakes assessment experiences by allowing students to continually re-assess the same skills and focus on the specific skills they need to practice.

How will students receive feedback in this class?

  • Rubrics: Each English 9 Honors standard or skill has a rubric to define the different levels of mastery: Ineffective, Developing, Effective, Highly Effective, Outstanding. These rubrics are designed to give students detailed feedback about their level of mastery of the specific skills.
  • Electronic Feedback: FCPS Google Classroom and Google Drive make it possible for students to share their documents (writing assignments, PowerPoint presentations, etc.) with their teachers. This venue allows students and teachers to communicate with one another electronically through comments and editing tools. In an effort to go “paperless”, some teachers have transitioned to all electronic submissions, using rubric and grading tools to give students feedback on assessments. Parents are encouraged to sit down with students and view their Google documents together.
  • Verbal Feedback: Teachers often hold mini-conferences with students during class and Cougar Time to give feedback to students on their skills. Often times this feedback is not written down in a formal matter, but students are expected to take notes and reflect on the discussion. This type of feedback is often the most valuable for students, and all students are encouraged to see his or her teacher for feedback often.
  • Peer Feedback: Students will spend time during most classes working together, as collaborating is an important aspect of Oakton’s culture and an important real world skill. Many times the collaboration will be centered around examining each other’s ideas and helping each other get better. In addition, all students are encouraged to make visiting The Center (Oakton’s peer tutoring program) a habitual part of their Oakton experience.

What does Standards Based Grading and the rolling (year-long) grade book look like in English 9 Honors?

  • Standards Based Grading is the most efficient and meaningful way to communicate to all parties (students, teachers, and parents) a student’s level of mastery on the specific course standards. Because the English course standards are all skills, rather than content, students are learning and refining the same skills all year long. Therefore, the grade book is not an average of student’s quarterly progress, but a representation of their skills at the end of the year. A student’s final grade will represent their level of mastery at the end of the course, rather than their lack of skill in the early quarters.
  • For example, students will be graded on their writing skills during the first quarter. Most likely, students will not achieve mastery on these skills in September; however, after practicing the same skills all year, students’ skill levels will improve.
  • There are three types of grades in the Standards Based Grading grade book. When you or your student look at the grade book in SIS, you will see assignments ordered by date, and labeled as one of the three types of grades.
    • Preparation Grades are worth 10% of a student’s grade and are checked for completion. Examples: a signed syllabus, a parent permission form, a draft ready for revision is brought to class, group work is completed in a productive manner during class, etc.
    • Discrete Skills are worth 60% of a student’s grade. These assignments are collected and graded for quality and competency based on specific rubrics. These are assignments designed to assess specific skills. These may include extended homework assignments, quizzes/tests, Socratic seminars, shorter writing activities, etc. We will note when an assignment will be graded as a discrete skill assessment.
    • Combined Skills are worth 30% of a student’s grade and are collected and graded for quality and competency based on a holistic rubric designed to evaluate a combination of skills. These may include culminating projects, Socratic seminars, essays/research papers, etc. We will note when an assignment will be graded as a combined skill assessment.
  • When looking at the grade book, assignments that still count will show as “0/0” in the “Points” column, and show the student’s original grade in the “Mark” column. For example, an early assignment might show “0/0” for points earned, but if it shows “7.5/10” as the mark, the student had earned a 7.5 on the assignment. However, there were additional grades for that discrete skill that replaced the earlier assignment.

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