Many freshmen coming into one of Nashville’s top public high schools are competent and fluent readers, but have a hard time reading deeply, making ninth grade a challenging year.
In general, English teacher Emily Moore said, nearly all of the freshmen she teaches at Hume-Fogg Academic High School -- a magnet school in downtown Nashville a few blocks from Music City’s famed honky-tonks -- have no experience in text analysis.
“They’re all great readers,” she said, noting that nearly 90 percent are reading at grade level. “But I have a hard time getting them to engage with the text, read for understanding and deeper meaning. I have a hard time getting them to read and think and write critically about fiction and nonfiction alike.”
Because of the advanced academics at Hume-Fogg, Moore and the team of English teachers have created standards that go above and beyond end-of-course exams and Common Core standards, and instead prepare them to take AP English in their junior and senior years.
Their English standards are broken down into categories: analysis of fiction; analysis of nonfiction; writing and essay writing in general, covering almost exclusively analytical writing (a big shift from middle school); vocabulary acquisition (a schoolwide program); and universal concepts in reading composition, using major texts of the English canon.
While the team of teachers planned for text complexity to increase each year of high school, Moore said some backtracking is needed at the start of freshman year because many arrive in ninth grade unequipped -- not for the amount of work, but for the specific kind of work that text analysis entails.