Wednesday, December 15, 2010

School district eliminates honors English course


As we have heard, all District 150 programs are under review for the 2011-2012 school year. From what I understand, District 150's review is in an effort to open all programs up to more students. As a result, many in the Peoria community are highly concerned about the disposition (integrity) of honors courses.

As expected, dismantling institutionalized tracking comes with some push back to maintain the stauts quo. Despite opposition from hundreds of parents, the Evanston Township School Board is not deterred and is moving forward with their "detracking plan".
Evanston Township High School District 202 eliminates honors English course Board OKs 'detracking' plan after weeks of debate on academics, race, politics
After weeks of debate that touched on academics, race and politics, Evanston Township High School District 202 approved a dramatic plan Monday night that eliminates an honors English course for the highest-achieving incoming freshmen — usually white students.

The unanimous school board vote paves the way for freshmen of all races, socioeconomic and achievement backgrounds next fall to take the same freshman humanities course next fall. Proponents of the move see it as a way to diversify advanced courses and circumvent the traditional process of tracking students into courses by test scores that often places minorities in lower-level classes.

The board approved the plan despite opposition from hundreds of parents who signed a petition urging officials to at least delay the proposal while it can be studied further.

Among other concerns, parents felt top-performing students could be bored or held back in classes that cater to the abilities of a wide range of students. The class scheduled for elimination is designed for freshmen who outscore about 95 percent of peers nationally on eighth-grade tests.

Now, those students will be melded with all incoming freshmen able to read at the ninth-grade level, which the high school defines as scoring at or about the 40th percentile on the achievement test given to eighth-graders. All freshmen in the class will have the opportunity to earn honors credit, depending on their grades on assignments.

A small number of students below the 40th percentile will be in a different class, to get more help. Read entire article here.

Related article: Schools head denounces Rockford racism - Superintendent LaVonne Sheffield cited the community's racial divide as an obstacle to providing excellent public education for all children.

17 comments:

Sharon Crews said...

These kinds of decisions may have worked 50 years ago, but they just won't work today. Public education doesn't control education in America any longer. Public education never has been the choice for the elite of America, but now even students from middle class families have other options.

Parents whose children are capable of honors courses will find the schools, private or public, that meet their needs. In fact, the "other" schools will recruit the top students. The truth is that if the "top" students were still going to District 150 schools, no one would even be considering dropping the honors courses. Those families have long ago fled in masses to private schools and to small communities surrounding District 150.

The public schools will become a place where students of equal ability will be in classes together--there just won't be any of the top students.

At some point we will have to acknowledge that racial equality and equality of academic abilities aren't the same thing. Many of the top students moving out of the public schools will be black as well as white--that's already happened in District 150.

The days of forced integration (by race or ability) cannot ever be achieved again as long as private schools do not have to answer to the government guidelines.

So far I have not heard Dr. Lathan say anything that would indicate that she holds to this "inclusive" curricula. That fear is why so many are a bit jumpy about the secrecy surrounding her study of existing programs. I hope she soon reveals where she stands on the subject of AP courses and the IB program. Personally, I believe that the massive mainstreaming in the district will be one more reason for parents with a choice to leave 150.

Enriched classes in District 150 have already undergone a steady erosion of standards. Putting students who are behind academically in enriched classes never pulls everyone up--quite the opposite happens.

I used to argue that the basketball coaches would never settle for such "equality" of ability arguments--why should the classroom?

Emerge Peoria said...

Sharon:

I am not sure why you keep saying they are considering "dropping honors courses". I have not heard that.

From what I understand, they are looking at how to make all courses available to more students. What's wrong with that?

You keep bringing up "equality of ability", which is something I don't believe you can put a mandate on. What I think they are going for here, is making an effort to insure equality in education - regardless of race or socioeconomic background.

Frustrated said...

Sharon - well written comment. I felt as though I wrote it myself.

Emerge glad to hear that it is your opinion that the District is NOT looking to eliminate honors/AP course, etc.

I believe there are very few truly "affluent" families left in the District. Elimination of honors/AP classes would only hurt the poor and working class families because, as Sharon stated, elimination would cause middle class families to flee, whatever it cost them.

An English class that accommodates every 9th is not a class that is preparing students for admission into competitive univeristies such as the U of IL or for that matter Bradley.

The students referred to your post that scored above 95% of their peers nationally in order to qualify for honors English were likely able to read at a 10th to 12th grade level when they were in
4th or 5th grade. I hardly see how disadvantaging one group of students helps improve the lot of another.

Sharon Crews said...

Emerge, I think I wrote a response to your questioning me about comments that I have made about 150 dropping honors courses. It either hasn't been posted or got lost in cyberspace.

The only time I have heard comments about dropping high level courses have been made by someone else on this blog who believes that the IB program could be on the chopping block. The problem is that Dr. Lathan is keeping her philosophy on the subject and her study of the programs rather close to the vest. That lack of communication just makes people jumpy.

I am all for making honors, AP, and enriched classes available to all students at all schools. That's the way it was in the not-so-distant past. However, "making available" sometimes translates into putting students in these classes when they aren't qualified for the material and the pace at which the material is handled. In fact, often the same books are used in basic and enriched classes. It isn't so much the material as it is the pace at which the material is handled that makes the major difference.

Shakespeare can be taught to students of all abilities--the way the subject is taught, not the material, is what makes the difference. A class isn't enriched because it is labeled enriched (or honors or AP). The class is only truly advanced if the students in the class are advanced, therefore, allowing the teacher to teach at an advanced level.

On the other hand, there is no denying that there have been instances (probably many) when black students who are advanced have been denied entry into these classes. I can't help but believe that (in a district with so many black students) the practice has changed in 150.

I do believe that where Washington Gifted is concerned that some black students accepted into the school have not accepted the invitation. Those4 statistics would be interesting.

Sharon Crews said...

I should not have put "probably" in front of the statement--there is no question that historically black students have been denied entry into many advanced classes.

As for the IB program at Richwoods--there just aren't that many "takers" of either race. Frankly, I don't care "what name" is given to advanced courses. I guess IB is important because it is an internationally known program--again it is only as good as the students in the class--and the teachers. It's what gets filtered into the minds of students, not the label of the courses, that makes the difference. Some basic classes in 150 in the past, at least, have been just good as enriched classes--because students who could have been in enriched chose to remain in basic--many, in fact.

Sharon Crews said...

I confess that I didn't read the little white box--and that I do have to agree that many of the high level courses have traditionally been used for students striving for academic excellence--enrollment has quite often been based on social segregation of one sort or another--which does include racial.

That is one of the reasons that I stated that basic classes at Manual were quite often filled with students who should have been in enriched--and quite often there are a significant number of students who do choose to avoid enriched classes for all kinds of reasons. I really don't believe they were cheated that much--especially when they were still in classes with peers of relatively similar academic abilities.

Sharon Crews said...

I left out "not" in front of "striving for academic excellence."

Anonymous said...

Lavonne Sheffield is one step away from losing her job. The AP classes have all been restored in Rockford, much to Dr. Sheffield's chagrin. The school board reinstated them. Her comments that the AP courses keep kids away from "those kids" is untrue and racist. There are many diverse students in the AP classes in Rockford. There is no one telling Af-AM students that they cannot be in AP honors courses. If you feel all warm and fuzzy about her, check the RRStar.com and read her speech to the Chamber of Commerce last week. Rockford has way more problems than Peoria.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous...you seem to know a lot about Rockford and the superintendent. Do you work there? Great loyalty to your district and superintendent. Sounds like you want a new job and will say what you need to hurt others and make yourself look better.

Emerge Peoria said...

@ Anonymous (who spoke on Superintendent Sheffield)

More than likely you are the person who sent me the link to the Rockford Story. What you wanted to expose about what Dr. Sheffield was/is doing was clear to me. Personally, I tend to agree with some of Dr. Sheffield's views. That is why it took me a while to post your link. At the end of the day, regardless of what you wanted a platform to say here in this forum, what is happening in Rockford is relevant.

Sharon Crews said...

Emerge, are you then saying that you lean toward the elimination of all advanced courses and programs? Even though these courses in the past probably did serve more than one purpose (not all academic), the truth remains that the students in the classes were probably deserving of more advanced work. To eliminate those courses in District 150 dooms all students to mediocrity. That is what I meant by equality of ability--such a move assumes that we all have equal abilities. It's bad enough, in my opinion, that special ed students are now being deprived of the intense special ed courses taught by teachers especially trained to work with them. To put all students in the same classes regardless of their academic needs will end in disaster.

In fact, mainstreaming is not an academic decision. It is a cost-cutting measure being passed off as educationally sound.

Sharon Crews said...

My prediction: We may return to the practices in place when I started teaching. At Roosevelt, for instance, classes were numbered for seventh grade, etc., from 7-1 to 7-13. My first years of teaching, of course, I taught 7-12, 7-13--it didn't take long for me to figure out that 7-1 was enriched and 7-13 was what we would call special ed today, except there were no special ed classes. The kids figured it out, too.

If the playing field appears to be level, it isn't necessarily level, so to speak. All kinds of pressures (from parents, from teachers, etc.) will cause students to be grouped by ability no matter what the classes are called.

At the beginning of restructuring at Manual, Dr. Kherat, I believe, decided that all English classes woulld be enriched. Looking at the numbers this semester, I would say that that practice hasn't been followed (I believe it was tried the first year, at least, I believe there were more students in enriched). It's hard to tell, though, because only half of the students take English first semester.

Anonymous said...

Dist 150's old HR person who was recently relieved of her duties is from Rockford. Hmmmm...

Anonymous said...

I keep up with Dist. 150 because my grandchildren are in four different schools, but I teach in Rockford 205. The rumor here is that not only is the supt. staying, but she will likely revamp and condense the organizational structure somewhat and probably eliminate some mid-level administrative positions (executive directors for instance) in an effort to save money. While I have mixed feelings personally about some of her suggestions, professionally I believe that she may be on the right track in her suggestions to change our academic offerings to fit our students' needs. In my opinion, not only is she staying, but I think it's probable that several administrators around her will be out because they do not possess the skills necessary to further the vision of our schools--and frankly there are a few who are just liked and more importantly respected by those with whom they deal daily because they really have not been successful in their former positions and were hired by 205 in a very non-competitive fashion.

Anonymous said...

Oops...edit to above:
meant to say that there are a few who are NOT like and NOT respected due to their unsuccessful performance in past positions!

Sorry...I don't blog often and need to learn to preview!

walk of shame said...

If I had a child who met the criteria for honors classes and the district decided to eliminate them my child would no longer be in that district. I just don't understand the desire to dumb down classes.

Sharon Crews said...

Walk of Shame--Agreed, I really do not understand how throwing kids with a wide range of academic abilities together is fair to anyone. Perception alone is enough to drive even more parents away from the district.