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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Open doors to accelerated classes

Open the doors to advanced classes to a wide range of students, argues AP social studies teacher Nate Bowling on EdWeek Teacher. Students of color and low-income students are underrepresented in accelerated courses,” perpetuating inequality, he writes. They “deserve access to rigorous, engaging coursework.”

As Washington state’s 2016 State Teacher of the Year, Bowling visited many schools filled with “diverse, energetic, chatty students.” But diversity ends at the classroom door.

Suddenly a school with the demographics of Oakland has math classes that look like Oslo. You’ve entered the Honors hallway or the Dual Enrollment Small School, or the IB wing, and it looks nothing at all like the school as a whole.

His district and school, Lincoln High in Tacoma, have adopted an Academic Acceleration policy to ensure that advanced classes enroll a mix of students, even those who’d prefer an easier class. “We fight with them (and their parents) when they try to drop the classes in September,” Bowling writes.

He advocates:

  1. Increase the number of seats in advanced classes by converting general education classes to accelerated classes. When I began teaching AP Government, we had two sections in our building; we now have seven. More sections means more access for students.

  2. Seek out ‘non-traditional AP students’ (male students-of-color, in particular) and push them to take more rigorous classes. I target the loudmouth know-it-alls. I have a soft spot for them because I was one and they’re often desperate for a challenge.

  3. Move from “opt-in” to “opt-out” AP enrollment.

Pass rates on AP exams will fall, Bowling writes. But the number of students passing will rise.

He’s changed his teaching to make it work, he writes. “I spend a ton of time building context for students, and I heavily scaffold vocabulary.” 

Bowling blogs at A Teacher’s Evolving Mind and hosts the Nerd Farmer Podcast.

Should most or all students be placed in accelerated courses?

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