First: please avoid personal attacks and respect the diversity of opinions.
Secondly, I've been thinking about the issue and had a few questions/thoughts:
- Honors classes vary wildly across the high schools. For instance Roosevelt has none in 9th grade and after that they are not separate but entail some additional requirements instead for the class. Ingraham, Ballard and West Seattle have separate classes. Nathan Hale which follows the Coalition of Essential Schools also doesn't offer stand alone honors. A few like Franklin talk about an honors option but I don't have enough information to tell what that actually means although I suspect its similar to Nathan Hale. For those who have been in any of the other schools it would be interesting to hear your experiences. I keep coming back to the idea that there should be a uniform policy of access in high school to the honors option and that there should also be a definition of what additional work or curriculum it involves.
- I tend to think about these issues first and foremost through the lens of whether the classes are meeting the needs of the students. Its hard to predict before its been implemented but I'm curious for more feedback from those already there on reasons why or why not. I should add that we veered a bit into a discussion of disruptive students. For me, these points are very problematic since moving all the hard to manage students into a separate track is known to produce lower quality classes. My hope is always that where we track, the tracks remain high quality at all levels and that there is some thought put into making sure that occurs.
- Finally, the process here has been dreadful which has I'm sure exacerbates the anxiety. Any instructional model changes should be communicated directly to the school community with adequate lead time. So if anyone hears additional information please post it.
This is via Alec Cooper the outgoing Garfield PTSA president
(presumably but not verified)
"Outgoing (now last year's) Garfield PTSA President here again. At our request, we met with Mr Howard and the teachers who are leading this initiative on Thursday of last week. We continued to reiterate that the way this was being done was hugely counterproductive.
We suggested to the teachers that (as a compromise) they consider to pilot 1-2 sections next year, enabling a more comprehensive plan to be prepared, vetted by parents, questions asked, feedback given - all parents, not just the PTSA. We offered PTSA funding for curriculum development and professional development. We emphasized that we understood the challenges that the teachers were trying to address.
No additional details were presented at the meeting, other than some of the teachers are planning to take some training. At the end of the meeting, the teacher who was leading the discussion simply told us that they were going ahead anyway. Afterwards, we received this mail
"We realize there's lots of uncertainty about the planned 9th grade detracking, esp with the recent Times article that mis-characterizes our plan. We have a draft of a description of the plan, and would like to incorporate the questions you've already collected from parents. Then in a couple days we can send you a clear description that answers as many questions as we can, which hopefully you'll share with as many parents as you have access to via constant comment, etc. So please share the questions you've gotten, grouped as makes sense to you, or just as a raw list."
Apparently when they decided to do this, they didn't even have a draft of a plan to share. I also inquired whether the Advanced Learning Office Office had reviewed the plan, this was the reply i got:
"Garfield was the designated APP site for the district many years ago. Now every neighborhood school is providing AP courses for their neighborhood populations. To answer your question. Does Garfield need permission from Michael Tolley, School Board, or Sarah Pritchett to make Academia changes. The short answer to your question is NO.
Lastly, there is no change for our advanced placement cohort or our students who want to challenge themselves at GHS by taking honor courses. The change is for our general ed population."
Garfield HS PTSA
July 5, 2016
Dear Garfield Families,
Members of the PTSA met with Principal Howard and Language Arts/Social Studies (LA/SS) teachers last week to learn more about the proposed changes to the 9th grade LA/SS curriculum. We requested the meeting after The Seattle Times published an article about Ted Howard and Garfield that discussed the school's race and equity challenges. The article indicated that 9th grade LA/SS Honors was going to be cut.
Principal Howard and the teachers clarified that The Times story mischaracterized the LA/SS Honors change. In fact, the school plans to offer Honors curriculum to all 9th graders. There will no longer be two curricula tracks for LA/SS - regular and honors. Now, all students will take the LA/SS Honors curriculum and be held to the same standard: Honors for All. The PTSA, the school and the teachers feel this is an important change to demonstrate to a greater number of Garfield students that they can enroll, and take on the rigor of more challenging courses, and succeed in that environment.
The teaching staff are 100% committed to Honors for All and to its success. All of the teachers are certified and trained to teach Honors and to teach a wide range of learning styles. They voted unanimously to make this change and to supporting each other as a team.
The teachers explained they help initiate the change because it would hold all students to a similar standard and it will be a rich learning environment. Classroom discussions will be enriched with the new classroom composition and the teachers will introduce project-based learning, a nationally recognized teaching tool. It will enhance learning for all as students will have the opportunity for individualized learning and peer learning opportunities will grow.
The teachers acknowledged the challenges they will face and shared how they were preparing for them. It is a challenge to teach Honors to a broad spectrum of students. The LA/SS teaching teams have been preparing for several years: enrolling in courses to teach differentiated learning; researching the newest teaching methods; studying high schools that have already made this change. Principal Howard also announced a new reading class for students to improve their reading skills.
Principal Howard and the district are committed to supporting this change, and the PTSA will work with the school and the district to ensure its success. The PTSA is requesting that the teachers share their implementation plan for this change and communicate the plan to the community, and it will also request quarterly check-ins to learn how it is going and to identify where we can best support the students, teachers and classrooms.
In the short term, the PTSA has shared parent questions with the teachers, and next week the teachers plan to address the questions and share their implementation plan for LA/SS Honors for All. The PTSA will continue to invite feedback and update the community. We are committed to partnering with the school - One Garfield! - to deliver an excellent education to the entire student body.
Garfield HS PTSA Executive Board
Garfield HS PTSA