Honors and Advanced Placement students at Evanston Township High, a large, very diverse school near Northwestern University, tend to be white and Asian. In hopes of preparing more black and Hispanic students for high-level classes, the school may eliminate honors-only freshman humanities classes for the top 5 percent of students, reports the Chicago Tribune. Instead, teachers are supposed to teach the honors curriculum to all students; those who do well will get honors credit. If it works well, honors biology also will be eliminated.
The new humanities class would include all students able to read at the ninth-grade level, which the high school defines as scoring at or above the 40th percentile nationally on an achievement test given to eighth-graders.
A small number of students below the 40th percentile will be in a different class, to get more help. This year, 50 students are in that support class — about 8 percent of students enrolled in all freshman humanities courses.
Some parents of high achievers say top students won’t be challenged in classes with a wide range of abilities. Other parents complain their children are excluded from honors classes based on tests taken in eighth grade.
Evanston High spends more than $20,000 per student, one of the highest per-pupil expenditures in the state, reports the Trib. “But while white students have consistently scored high enough on state tests to meet the standards, black and Latino students lag far behind, according to state data.”
Without No Child Left Behind, which forces schools to break out the performance of racial and ethnic subgroups, Evanston High would look like a high-performing school, notes Alexander Russo.
My daughter was in a mixed English class in ninth grade at Palo Alto High. She did some extra work and got honors credit; a majority of students did not do the honors work. It worked, mostly because the range of skills wasn’t all that wide. However, if black and Hispanic students lag far behind in K-8, I doubt they’ll be transformed by sitting in class with honors students. It will take more work in K-8 to prepare students for true honors work.