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January 8, 2007

View from the MMSD Student Senate

At its November 21, 2006, meeting, the MMSD Student Senate discussed many issues of interest to this blog community (e.g., completely heterogeneous high school classes, embedded honors options, etc.). Here is the relevant section from the minutes for that meeting:

Comments and Concerns:

  • regular classes don’t have a high enough level of discussion
  • students who would normally be in higher level courses would dominate heterogeneous class discussions
  • bring students up rather than down
  • honors classes help students who want to excel to do so
  • array of advanced and regular classes in every subject
  • honors and AP classes are dominated by a certain type of students (concerning ethnicity, socio-economic status, neighborhood, family, etc.)
  • honors within regular classes -- response to whether or not regular students are an integral part of the class:
      not isolating
      discussion level is still high
      homework is the same (higher expectation for essays; two textbooks)
      teachers don’t cater to one type of student in discussions

  • there’s a risk of losing highly-motivated students to private schools
  • being in a classroom with students of similar skill levels is beneficial
  • teachers teach very differently to honors/advanced/AP students than they do to regular students
  • least experienced teachers are given to students who need the most experienced teachers (new teachers get lowest level classes)
  • sometimes split classes will be divided so that the honors students will be doing work in the front of the classroom while the regular students are doing lab work in the back
  • the problem is with the average classes
  • won’t help anything to cut TAG classes
  • mental divide among students in classes where honors and regular students are in the same classroom
  • more behavioral problems in regular classes (possibly more behavioral problems) à cycle teachers through so that one teacher isn’t stuck with the same type of student for an extended time
  • college is a factor to consider

  • Main problems to bring to BOE:

    • higher standards for all students *
    • division within classes creates too many boundaries *
    • not bad to keep advanced classes in some disciplines *
    • voluntary peer education *
    • colleges consider accelerated course loads (factor to consider) *
    *Group majority

    On December 4, 2006, BOE Student Representative Joe Carlsmith made a presentation about recent MMSD Student Senate activities to his BOE colleagues. Here is the relevant portion of the BOE Regular Meeting agenda for that date:

    Heterogeneous vs. Homogeneous class grouping; Multi-level divisions within classrooms at West.

    Voted consensus, though no official motion, on the following:

    1. We need to work toward higher standards at all levels.
    2. Motivated teachers result in motivated students.
    3. Total elimination of TAG or AP classes would be detrimental to the overall curriculum.
    4. Honors or AP divisions within classes create too many barriers between students.

    When I asked Joe if Item #4 referred specifically to embedded honors options, he replied: "We came up with item four as a general consensus on a discussion we had specifically about West's embedded honors program." In other words, as he explained to me on the phone, the Student Senate does not support embedded honors options in our high schools because of the divisions they create within a classroom.

    I have invited Joe (and the other members of the Student Senate) to come to the Madison United for Academic Excellence meeting on January 23 (7:00 in Room 209 of the Doyle Building) because our focus that evening will be our high schools. As well, we will have at least one student and one parent from each of our four high schools present at the meeting, prepared to give a brief update on what's been going on at their school and to answer any school-specific questions that might come up.

    Posted by Laurie Frost at January 8, 2007 6:40 PM
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