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Consultant

What a great example of

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What a great example of seeing a gap, identifying barriers and then adjusting how the school operates to address them. I love that you involve parents in encouraging students to apply for the honors classes, as well. Congratulations on the great work!

We did away with honors

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We did away with honors classes after noticing two things. One, we didn't have enough students performing high enough to fill a true honors class. Two, our highest-performing kids grew the most and our lowest-performing kids grew the least, although you should expect the opposite - teachers were really teaching the honors classes, while just putting up with the lower-tracked classes.

When we got rid of honors classes, everyone benefited. Now we had students in each class who could lead a group, for example. And that's when the scores took off.

Middle school teacher by day, educational author/blogger by night

Hey George, Just to clarify,

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Hey George,
Just to clarify, these aren't weighted the same. The writing test is weighed more heavily than others because it's the only element we know that is not subjective or hasn't been possibly touched by a parent. (We've had that happen before with portfolio submissions.) We have multiple readers assess these tests as well, and the kids are only identified by an assigned number.

It's not ideal, but it's a start!

Thanks for your comment!

-Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Middle school teacher by day, educational author/blogger by night

Hey David! I really like that

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Hey David!
I really like that you mentioned the following:
"And, for every minority kid who is enthusiastic, engaged, and learns a great deal, they will bring their friends into similar courses." I think that's dead on. Reputation with peers is what brings many kids to many different kinds of classes, and we want the honors classes on the lists of classes that all kids talk about.

Thanks so much for your comment!
-Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Professor, San Jose State University

As you move into this

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As you move into this experiment, you might consider pairing up various learning experiences with a teacher librarian or a teacher technologist. If you have good ones at your school, they will be anxious to co-teach alongside you integrating a wealth of information sources, tech tools, and learning how to learn strategies alongside content learning. When two heads are co-teaching and coaching, the percentage of students who meet or succeed should rise dramatically. And, for every minority kid who is enthusiastic, engaged, and learns a great deal, they will bring their friends into similar courses. Keep us informed! Success to you.

Retired Principal

Way to go, Heather, but my

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Way to go, Heather, but my experience with admitting underrepresented minorities into honors courses has taught me to be careful about using certain criteria in the admissions equation. My reaction to the equally-weighted "grades + test scores + teacher rec + writing test" formula is that kind-hearted teachers (which means all teachers except for a few very rigid ones) will recommend all or almost all minority students interested in honors courses. And contrary to the common myth test scores don't stink, but the threshold scores for admissions to honors courses are often higher than they need to be. These caveats aside, I applaud what Heather and her colleagues are doing.

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