The Monona Grove School Board will soon be considering a request to eliminate honors sections in the high school freshmen and sophomores English and science curricula.
(I’d love to tell you exactly when this proposal will come before the board, but no future agendas are offered on the district’s website.)
But when a parent raised the issue on the Moms of Monona Grove Facebook page, a lively discussion occurred.
Parents of high-achieving students seemed particularly upset that their children might no longer receive the more difficult (“challenging” in edu-speak) curricula they need to move on to Advanced Placement courses during their junior and senior years.
But MG public relations spokesperson Katy Byrnes-Kaiser says the opposite will occur: All freshmen and sophomores will tackle the more difficult material currently offered only to honors students.
“There is no proposal to eliminate teaching honors content; the proposal is to provide more access and therefore expand the opportunities available and improve growth for all students,” Byrnes-Kaiser explained in an e-mail.
(In edu-speak, this is called “detracking”: Keeping the honors curricula while simply removing the honors designation.)
“Most course offerings are not delineated by tracks and students are successfully learning and growing in … history, math, social studies, etc.
“Teachers have spent years attempting to address concerns tied to improving student achievement by narrowing in on specific student needs, by reworking course material, by including retake options on assessments, and by providing additional support in resource rooms, to name a few,” she said.
“The Science and English departments are requesting the elimination of honors as a separate course so that access and opportunity can be expanded to all students in … English 9, English 10, Biology and Chemistry. These are the only honors classes offered at MGHS.
“We believe that by expanding what is available to students in their core classes, more students will be challenged appropriately, will find academic supports as needed, and be academically successful in their courses.
“Further, we believe that the social stratification that artificially creates separation among students will be reduced significantly and our school community will be more positively connected.
“In fact, we intend for this proposal to have a result of more students taking AP classes.
“Many students who are not initially placed in an honors class often feel they are not eligible or able to take an AP class,” she added.
“While that’s not the case, we feel confident that exposing all students to honors-level material will increase the number of students interested in taking AP and who feel confident in their ability to do so.”
Detracking is not a new idea: It’s been slowly gaining traction in U.S. schools since the early 1990s.
It’s aimed at closing the achievement gap between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian classmates.
But high-achieving students and their parents have reason to be concerned that the curricula could be “dumbed down.”
Wikipedia summarized it thusly: “Detracking holds back high-ability students because teachers must reduce the amount and complexity of material so that all students in the class, including low-ability students, can understand it.”
I hope this doesn’t happen at MGHS.
The problem is, like most education “reforms,” detracking feels like an experiment.
And if there’s one thing that parents don’t like, it’s having their kids be experimented on.
Look at Common Core, the nationwide experiment aimed at eliminating educational differences among the states.
According to U.S. News & World Report magazine, reading and math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress – the NAEP test, often called “the Nation’s Report Card — have declined nationwide since Common Core was fully implemented in 2015, after rising steadily from 1990-2014.
I recently ran into Vicki Dudsak, who used to be my hair stylist.
Unfortunately, a couple of years ago, she suffered a traumatic brain injury while on vacation in Belize. Doctors there saved her life but botched the surgery, so she’s had to undergo repeated brain surgeries since she got home.
This forced her to close her Monona Drive salon, called Glamour Puss.
So she was quite surprised recently when she received a letter informing her that Glamour Puss had been named the “Best of Monona” in the cosmetology category.
Other Monona businesses may have received similar letters. I hope they don’t fall for it, because it’s a scam.
Winners are expected to pay between $150 and $230 for a plaque and/or trophy announcing their award – which nobody voted for.
The real “Best of Monona” awards are sponsored by this newspaper, are voted on by readers, and are presented in July – and winners don’t have to pay a dime.
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