Combination of honors and regular classes prove difficult

Photo+by+Renata+Williams

Photo by Renata Williams

Brett Stover

The social studies  teachers have decided to combine honors and regular World and U.S. Studies classes.

Students in studies classes will “contract” for honors credit next year by showing more analysis, synthesis and depth of thought, Director of Guidance Betsy Jones said.
Assistant Principal Dr. Tim Wright added that the honors contract students sign, includes how they plan to exceed the on-level curriculum.
“The proposed change is that all of our at-level classes will be heterogeneous,” Wright said. “There will not be a strictly honors class that students can sign up for. They’ll sign up for, [for] example, U.S. Studies. Within that classroom, students will have the option to contract with the teachers for honors credit. Basically, [the honors contract] includes to what degree they’re going to go above and beyond the regular curriculum that all students will be learning.”

Photo by Renata Williams
During first hour today, Thursday, May 23, students wait for the end of their school year in Dingler’s world studies class Photo by Renata Williams
Jones said there are many benefits to the merger, including her view that it will help students who are less motivated to be positively influenced by their hard working peers.
“By [combining honors and regular] there’s a couple of things, in my mind, that’s a benefit,” Jones said. “Number one: if you want to move from honors to regular – for Studies [classes] that’s always a challenge – so this way you don’t; you just seamlessly move [because] you’re in the same class. And two: when you talk about having some kids who could be challenged, that [now] are seeing what other kids are capable of doing and rising to [those] high expectations.”
Regardless of the potential benefits, students, such as sophomore Anthony Reichert, who is currently taking honors World Studies, are opposed to the change.
“[I’m] not excited about it because I like working with more intelligent people and people who actually care about their grades and things like that,” Reichert said, “[as] opposed to regular [studies] kids who might not care about their grades as much.”
Reichert said he plans on taking U.S. Studies at the honors level next year but is considering Advanced Placement because, he said, “you work with smarter people, and it’s more vigorous and time consuming, and it looks better on scholarships. I’d get into college better.”
AP World student and sophomore Bailey Washer is also opposed to the change, as she says less-motivated students would affect the environment of Advanced Placement courses. According to Jones, all AP, math and science classes will remain separate.
“I think a lot of kids don’t want to contract for honors, so now they’re just going to take AP. We’re going to have kids in our [AP] class who don’t want to put in the work,” Washer said. “We should have kept the two levels because there are kids who aren’t ready or don’t want to have to contract [for honors credit]. Honors should just be an option because there are kids who are between AP and regular. [Honors] shouldn’t just be contract; it should be offered [as a class].”
Although there are objections, teachers are in agreement that combining on-level and honors classes will help them to better serve students.
It is a system that is  already in place in teacher Austin Reed’s U.S. Studies and Popular Culture classes, although he says  the seniors in Pop Culture class don’t take well to the idea of contracting for honors.
“It doesn’t work well in pop culture. These students want some extrinsic motivation. We want them to learn because learning is good, not to learn because it gives you an ‘A,’” Reed said. “In our regular [U.S. Studies] class, we’ve been offering honors credit to our regular students, and the five-ish students that have been doing it- they’re more engaged, they’re taking their thoughts to a deeper level.”
He said merging the levels will reveal the true motivation for current honors and on-level students and that many students currently enrolled in honors classes are simply taking them to avoid students they see as troublesome in a classroom setting.
“For a long time in my classes I’ve had students that call themselves honors students because they were in an honors class, but they weren’t necessarily an honors student to me,” Reed said.  “They more just wanted to avoid what I call the ‘riff-raff’ of an at-level class: the obnoxious kids, the disruptions. I don’t think an honors student is simply differentiated because of behavior. I think honors is about achievement and motivation.”
Reed adds that while the change may not be completely smooth next year, success is in the foreseeable future.
“It’s going to be messy and hard, no doubt,” Reed said. “I don’t know if next year will be this perfect picture of honors. We’ll have our critics next year, but I think our philosophy’s sound, and therefore I think it’ll be good down the road.”