Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Qualifying for high school honors classes

Many Most* high schools establish some criteria for students to qualify for honors and/or AP classes.  One local high school determines eligibility for 9th grade honors English and social studies classes using a ten-point scoring rubric based on the following 

Writing Sample
Behavior and Work Habits
Current Average Course Grade

Interested students are required to complete a writing sample during a proctored session.  They are asked to analyze a piece of literature (English) or write a thematic essay based on a time period/event in U.S. History (social studies). No additional details about the rubrics used in the evaluation process have been provided.

I appreciate that writing skills are crucial to success in these types of classes, but I have some reservations about this overall process.
  • Writing skills are given great weight, especially in light of what I consider to be the inconsistent quality of this school's writing instruction.  I've seen too many classes where students are routinely given the choice to opt out of writing assignments by creating songs, board games or comic strips instead.
  • "Behavior and Work Habits" are weighted heavily, so I am curious how they are measured.  This has the potential to be highly subjective.
  • Grades are a relatively small consideration.  Aren't grades supposed to be the best overall measure of a student's academic achievement level?
* UPDATE:  I've corrected this because I don't have data to back up my statement that "most" schools have admission criteria. 


  1. That's exactly what leaped out at me -- behavior is too heavily weighted. I'd rather see them remove the kids if they can't behave appropriately. The way its written, I would imagine boys would be at a disadvantage. There's nothing worse behaved than a really bored but smart 8th grade boy.

  2. Based on both behavior and writing skills, boys very well could be disadvantaged. Now that I think of it, this school's English AP class was about 15% boys last year. I wonder if the school believes that type of gender imbalance "just happens".