School board holds special meeting tonight to address elimination of honors courses
From staff reports
Rockford Board of Education will hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m., tonight (Tuesday, Dec. 7) at the District 205 Administration Building, 201 S. Madison St., to address the administration’s district-wide plans to cut honors courses.
School board members, teachers, staff, members of the public and the media have expressed frustration with what they perceive to be the administration’s failure to effectively communicate its plans to cut honors courses.
District 205 Superintendent Dr. LaVonne M. Sheffield sent a lengthy memo to all Board of Education members explaining her reasoning behind eliminating honors courses. Her memo was distributed to area media outlets Friday, Dec. 3, and can be viewed by clicking here.
In the memo, Sheffield explained how there was little difference between the curriculum offered in honors courses and regular courses and that honors courses tended to have a disproportionate percentage of white students. She asserted that students in honors courses performed only slightly better than students in regular courses on standardized tests, and that all students in the district could benefit from having the curriculum standards raised in all classrooms to meet the standards of honors courses.
Sheffield also drew a distinction between traditional honors courses and Advanced Placement (AP) courses, emphasizing that only honors courses would be eliminated and that students seeking more challenging courses could simply take AP courses.
Sheffield explained in her memo: “Advanced Placement classes can bolster a high school transcript and improve the chances of being accepted into college. Honors courses are usually considered less rigorous than AP courses. Honors programs vary widely from school to school, and colleges recognize this. AP courses are governed by the College Board. Teachers have to teach specific topics that would typically be covered during freshman year of college. The College Board requires that all instructors for AP classes submit and have an approved syllabus. Therefore, many colleges will take into account the context of a high school’s accelerated programs; scrutinize closely how many AP courses are available to a student, as well as overall course load. In other words, you can take honors courses and receive straight A’s but score 13 on your ACT and not gain admission to college.”
Ultimately, Sheffield’s memo concluded, “we can offer a variety of challenging courses through the combination of honors and AP sections. At the same time, by filling courses to a minimum of 30 students, we can eliminate 46 FTEs [full-time equivalent positions] and save $3.4 million. I hope this memo has been helpful in further explaining the sound rationale behind the Administration’s decision-making.”
The district faces a $41 million deficit that is expected to inflate to $50 million for the 2012 school year.
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