Why not honors courses for all? asks WashPost columnist Jay Mathews.
High-scoring Fairfax County schools, which offer regular, honors and AP or International Baccalaureate classes in 11th and 12th grade plan to eliminate honors classes if AP or IB is available. Parents are protesting. They want an honors option — faster moving, more in depth but not college level — for their children.
Mathews suggests eliminating the regular track: Everyone would take honors or AP classes. He makes what’s now an old argument:
The qualities that make you ready for college—good reading comprehension, clear and persuasive writing, math through at least Algebra II, presentation and time management skills—are the same needed to get a good job or trade school slot upon high school graduation.
Detracking is a national trend, he notes.
When teachers “drag” average students into AP or IB classes, “the results are almost always good,” Mathews asserts.
What would happen if you added regular students to honors classes? Jack Esformes of T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria mixed seven AP students with 21 regular students in each of the five government course sections he taught each year. Nothing was dumbed down for the AP students. The regular students received less homework, but once they discovered they were often as clever in class as the alleged smart kids, some of them switched to AP. Many of them told me they liked the challenge of being taught at such a high level.
Is Esformes an average teacher? Or a very good one in a school where the regular students aren’t way behind the AP students?
I went to an untracked elementary and middle school. Reading during class saved me from terminal boredom. Then we hit high school: Then there were three tracks in math, three in science, five in English. I loved it. Sophomore year, I dropped down to Level 2 geometry to avoid taking two Level 1 math classes at once, which was the only alternative. I got a lot of reading done in geometry class.