Some classes that offer college-level Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge classes are abolishing honors courses, forcing students who don’t want to load on another AP to take “regular” classes that are easy for them. Meanwhile, non-honors students are coasting along without a challenge. Jay Mathews of the Washington Post cites Jack Esformes, a Virginia government teacher who mixed AP and regular students in his courses.
The AP students got more homework than the regular students got, but in class the AP kids soon realized that the regular kids were full of insights derived from their different backgrounds, and the regular kids saw that the AP kids were not any smarter but just worked harder. Some of the regulars switched to AP.
My daughter’s ninth-grade English class was a mix of regular and honors students. The students who wanted honors credit had to read and write more than their classmates. It worked well for her. However, there wasn’t much diversity — academic, ethnic or socioeconomic — in the class.
Mathews suggests abolishing the regular, non-honors track.
Why should honors kids or regular kids have to be bored?
Slap that honors-class sticker on any course that is the alternative to AP, IB or Cambridge. The book-smart kids can keep their honors classes. The street-smart kids will be likely to be motivated, as Esformes’s regular students were, by trading ideas with the class brains and getting much better teaching. And more motivated students mean fewer discipline problems.
This assumes very good teachers and no D- students who can’t take any more challenge than they’ve already got.