Friday, December 15, 2006

Middle School Honors Classes Come to Grosse Pointe

Thanks to a Gifted Exchange reader for sending in this item. According to The Grosse Pointe News, the Grosse Pointe, Michigan school board recently approved a proposal to add honors science and social studies classes in middle schools. The board chose to do this in order to make the curriculum more rigorous. While many middle schools in Michigan and elsewhere have honors math or English classes, for some reason other subjects tend to not be viewed as needing such rigor. There's no real reason for this, but so it goes. Grosse Pointe decided to change this and do ability grouping (or "readiness grouping") for most subjects. For this they should be commended.

I also don't see why it's particularly controversial. Is math so different from science in a way that makes ability grouping OK for one and not the other? But true to form, some educators decided that they needed to protest. The Grosse Pointe News is subscription-only, but I thought I'd share a few choice quotes from recent articles.

For instance, Roger Hunwick, a social studies teacher, says that "separating diverse learners" is against teaching philosophy. Dissident board member Alice Kosinski says that "Tracking and segregating students is contradictory to our strategic plan." Strategic plan for what -- mediocrity?

And then there's the kicker from dissident board member Angela Kennedy. She notes, "I am concerned about the trend of high school academics demanding college level achievement. I cannot support the transformation of middle school into high school. I'm worried that we are raising a generation of uber children who can read early but never enjoy literature, who are challenged but not engaged (and) who burn out before graduate school."

Uber children? Graduate school? New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg mentioned a fascinating new study in a Wall Street Journal column the other day that found that only 18 of 100 high school freshmen will graduate from a 2-year-college within 7 years of starting high school, or a 4-year-college within 10 years. Kennedy's worries that rigorous classes will make children burn out before graduate school are a bit misplaced. Very few children even make it to the point where graduate school is an option under our current educational set-up.

On the other hand, some evidence does suggest that children who try accelerated classes, even if they don't do so well, are more likely to go to college than those who don't. So cheers to Grosse Pointe for taking the risk of adding honors classes for middle schoolers, despite the opposition.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It seems odd to me to mix a contrast a quote from a board member of the Gross Pointe schools with a general national statistic about college graduation rates. Gross Point is an affluent community (median family income is over $100,000) that probably has college graduation rates radically above the national average.