When Paul Radspinner’s 15-year-old son Mitchell wanted to participate in a student sit-in last October outside West High School, he called his dad to ask permission.
“He said he was going to protest, and wanted to make sure I had no problem with it. I thought, ‘It’s not the ’60s anymore,'” recalls Radspinner. The students, he learned, were upset about planned curriculum changes, which they fear will eliminate elective class choices, a big part of the West culture.
“It was a real issue at the school,” notes Radspinner. “The kids found out about it, but the parents didn’t.”
This lack of communication is a main reason Radspinner and 60 other parents recently formed a group called West Cares. Calling itself the “silent majority,” the group this month opposed the new English and social studies honors classes the district is adding next fall at West, as well as Memorial. (East and La Follette High Schools already offer these classes for freshmen and sophomores.)
The parents fear separating smarter kids from others at the ninth-grade level will deepen the achievement gap by pushing some college-bound students into advanced-level coursework sooner. They also believe it will eviscerate West’s culture, where all freshmen and sophomores learn main subjects in core classes together regardless of achievement level.
“It’s a big cultural paradigm shift,” says parent Jan O’Neil. “That’s what we’re struggling with in the West community.”
Lots of related links:
- “Stand Up Against the MMSD High School Reform”
- Madison school district to consider alternatives to traditional public schools
- Advanced Placement, Gifted Education & A Hometown Debate
- On the Gifted & Talented Complaint Against the Madison School District
- Madison School District 2010-2011 Enrollment Report, Including Outbound Open Enrollment (3.11%)
- Complaint Filed Against Madison Schools
- English 10
- District Small Learning Community Grant – Examining the Data From Earlier Grants, pt. 2
- The Mess at West (updated)
- Laurie Frost and Lorie Raihala: Issues at West High are long-standing