East High School to Follow West’s One Size Fit’s All 9/10 Curriculum?

From a reader involved in these issues:

The plan for East HS is to have only regular classes (that is, no Advanced (formerly AcaMo) and no TAG classes) and AP classes (which, presumably, only juniors and seniors will be able to take). East currently offers 9 AP classes. This means there will be a core curriculum delivered in completely heterogeneous classes (except for the special ed and ESL classes) across the boards in 9th and 10th grades. Our source did not specify if this means the end of Paul DuVair’s renowned TAG Biology class. There also is no word on embedded honors options, like West now offers (though we have heard many reports about how profoundly uneven implementation is — aside from the fact that embedded honors options rarely give students the critical opportunity to learn together at a high level).
The only exception to this plan will be math, largely because the kids enter East already ability grouped (i.e., some into Algebra, some into Geometry, etc.).
Additional info —
— the official word is that this plan is coming from Alan Harris himself (yeah, right)
— the other official word is that one of the reasons for this drastic change is that the TAG students were “coasting” (huh?)
So please spread the word — especially to East attendance area parents that you know, including parents of younger kids — and please attend, if you can. And if anyone can videotape …

Related Links:

I wonder how Shabazz fits into this? It seems like an outler, given the current high school curriculum direction.

3 thoughts on “East High School to Follow West’s One Size Fit’s All 9/10 Curriculum?”

  1. it IS coming from mr harris, a few of the TAG classes I took in 9th and tenth grade were way too easy, and ive taken essentially every TAG class I have been able to take so far. I’m a junior.

  2. Well, as we’ve been discussing on the Madison United for Academic Excellence list serve, it seems to us that the problem is variability/inconsistency across the TAG classes with regard to standards, rigor and expectations. It seems to us that that’s what’s in need of fixing.
    As well, we are aware that the data are very clear — the students who suffer the most when advanced learning opportunities are taken away are the poor and minority students of high ability.
    And there seems to be very little deep understanding of what’s REALLY involved in training teachers to differentiate course material and instruction, what’s REALLY involved in terms of time and resources. We are fools to accept at face value the statement that “teachers will differentiate” without also being given any detail about professional training and development, curriculum materials, etc.
    I know Mr. Harris talks about “expanding TAG opportuntities.” And yet, he has not said how many more AP classes East will offer (they now offer 10); what criteria he will use to determine whether any given 9th grader can go into a 10th grade class; what criteria they will use to determine whether any given 10th grader can go into an AP class; and so forth. It could be that only very few underclassmen will be allowed to accelerate. How is that “expanded” opportunity?
    As for including “embedded honors options” in the list of expanded opportunities, I don’t buy it, mainly because those options typically involve more — not different — work and independent work, not group discussion. As the East students so eloquently explained last Thursday night, the thing they love most about their TAG classes is the opportunity to be themselves fully, and to freely discuss course material at the highest level. My own son said the same thing about his experience in Accelerated Biology at West two years ago — that it wasn’t so much the curriculum (which wasn’t so different from the regular biology class); it was the students in the class and the level of discussion. Also being able to rely on the fact that your lab mates would pull their weight on group projects.

  3. You are so right, Laurie, that “embedded” options in the regular classes are not real options. It is the level of discussion possible with other interested students that makes TAG or even “academically motivated” classes worth the work: the knowledge that you are not boring other students or making yourself stand out and look like a brown-noser or someone who thinks too highly of yourself.
    And the students who would be allowed to “accelerate” even in these embedded options are still the students whose parents (or the students themselves) are most informed and active as well. That includes some working class and/or F/RL families, but not as many as it should. Such plans should be causing outrage in a district that is currently looking at “equity” so closely. Where is the equity in allowing enrichment only outside of school, and, therefore, for those students who can afford it or those who can work hard enough independently to find funding resources? How many 4th-8th graders are that self-confident and informed? Not many.

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