Thursday, February 11, 2016

Class Levels - Basic, Average, Honors?

Accommodating students of various skills, interests, and levels of motivation is, perhaps, one of the most challenging tasks in public education these days. Far too often, teachers are met with vast canyons of difference in the abilities and work ethics of large classes. And, far too often they are simply told by administrators and coordinators that they just need to "differentiate instruction."

Ah hah! Differentiate. That's what it is. I'll just ... differentiate .... for all my students .... for all my lessons ... and assignments .... hmmmmm.

At the high school level, especially, the key breakdowns are for kids who are deficient, proficient, and advanced. And there are all sorts of terms, and I've probably offended some with my breakdown - so, I'm sorry. But it's basically three levels of ability and/or motivation leading to levels of success and class performance. Additionally, there are extremes of disability that can lead to special education designations for students who simply can't perform at the mainstream classroom level.

While my school long had "essentials," "college-prep" and "honors" English, a few years ago we eliminated the essentials level. In reality, many capable students were less motivated to take the class for which they were proficient - CP English - because they just didn't want to work as hard. However, we've maintained a "essentials of reading/writing" class for students who need extra support. And truly low-performing students are most likely in need of special education. This policy contrasts the social studies department which maintains an "essentials" level in freshman world history, but offers no honors level.

While there is justification for offering support for lowest performing students and differentiating in a single class between proficient and advanced, I'm more in favor of offering truly advanced classes for kids who excel while offering support in a college-prep class for kids who are struggling.

No comments: