Unneeded level between on-level, A.P. courses

Parker Sutherland

We have a problem at RBHS.  Though quiet, it exists.  This problem is so insidiously subtle one might not have noticed; its effects aren’t overt.  But, like a twisted weed creating cracks in the foundation of education, the problem warps us.
The problem is RBHS has segregated classes.
Granted, segregation is a strong word and needs some clarification.  This segregation is not like ones of the past; it is the failure of a system  set up with good intentions, but one that now divides courses along socioeconomic lines.
Of students in regular U.S. classes, 36 percent are non-white, compared to the 13 percent in honors.  Fifteen percent of students in regular courses have Individual Education Plans, compared to three percent in honors classes.  Around 40 percent of students enrolled in on-level courses are on free or reduced lunch, compared with nine percent in honors classes.
Beyond the initial moral revulsion to the idea of segregation, it causes some severe problems.
First is inequity in terms of time teachers have per student.  Simply put, there are five times the number of IEPs in on-level courses than in honors classes.  These IEP students often require extra time from teachers. The time teachers must spend because of the disparity creates a black hole of inequity.
On-level students deserve a better ratio so that everyone has equal access to teacher expertise, thereby creating a more successful learning environment.
Giving a small group of students too much time makes it easy for the majority of a class of teenagers to talk, text and generally mess around.  The teacher must then regain control of the class, which causes resentment among the students.
Another difficulty in the current system of honors and on-level classes is the creation and reinforcement of stereotypes.  Most students will take classes to be with friends.   By itself this can cause disciplinary problems. But when combined with teachers who spread too thin, such disturbances seriously derail the class.  Disruptive classroom environments contribute to an overall negative stereotype about on-level classes.  A stereotype exists that the on-level student basically wants to coast through school.  In fact many on-level students are very invested in their education.  However, there is pressure from peers to fit into the image of not caring — not to be considered nerdy or geeky — and so the stereotype is self-perpetuating.
The final problem is honors courses put on-level students at a disadvantage.  While honors U.S. studies do essentially the same coursework as on-level classes, students in those classes get an honors credit for their transcripts. While some may say students who want honors credit should just take the honors classes, especially if the coursework is the same, the issue of peer pressure once again comes into play.  Because the curriculum is so similar, the division between the two classes is moot. Furthermore, teachers can individualize instruction — providing literature sets and supplementary assignments for those needing more challenge.
Currently Popular Culture classes have an honors credit project available; students sign up for the project to receive honors credit. When the program was first implemented, teachers noted many students said they had not taken an honors class before but did with this option. This disproves the stereotype of the non-caring student and shows  teens will take advantage of an honors system when they can do so without going against the will of their peers.
The system allows for a more authentic learning environment, one that replicates the workplace with its people and their varied abilities.
Combining classes works to resolve the discipline problem and ends the system of quiet segregation. Finally, mores students will have a greater academic challenge than they have had in the past.
It truly would be the best of both worlds.
By The Rock