Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Some parents oppose Harrison school district's open enrollment policy for AP courses

A group of parents are in opposition to the high school's open enrollment policy for AP courses.  They believe this policy does not serve their children well, contributing to lower achievement levels.
That group is calling for a return to tracking, a process in which students must meet certain grade requirements to take advanced level classes. Harrison's schools abandoned structured tracking years ago, and have seen more students taking advanced classes in each of the last eight years.
It's interesting that the article labels this as "tracking", a term that often raises the ire of many parents and educators.  The more current PC term would be "flexible proficiency grouping".
The board of education, meanwhile, says opening A.P. classes has created a more enriching classroom experience while providing each student with an equal opportunity to succeed. Studies recently cited by the board say that tracking a student into lower-level classes has been shown to stunt their intellectual growth.
Here are two comments that paint a more complete picture of the situation in Harrison.
Following up on your reporting of our conversation, I'm afraid I wasnt clear enough about what our group, the Harrison Parents Educational Partnership, "wants." It does not want a "return to tracking." We do, however, want the BOE to extend its demonstrated commitment of providing educational opportunity to our children so that it benefits all students in the District. The approach the District has been following permits any students to take any class, irrespective of readiness or ability. There is certainly a respectable argument to be made for this "open enrollment" philosophy, and the BOE and Superintendent Wool are effective advocates for it. But because the District has also eliminated all honors classes, this approach results in the grouping of children with greatly varying degrees of abilities and readiness in the same class, with the teacher expected to somehow challenge the children at all levels. We do not want a return to the "bad old days" of tracking. We do, however, want the BOE to recognize their obligations to all the children in the District by retaining the opportunities that now exist, but also affording the children it now ignores with similar opportnities to stretch their minds and enhance their futures. Our teachers do a terrific job under very difficult circumstances. Their desire to help all our kids achieve all they can should not be impeded in the name of an egalitarian philosophy that is anything but egalitarian.

I am in favor of tracking but only for the purpose of forming learning cohorts made up of children of similar abilities in each discipline. However, the district shouldn't use the tracking data to block access to the A/P programs and there should be merit-based portability between the learning cohorts.
By forming learning cohorts the district will more effectively use the teachers as assets because he/she can focus on a smaller set of student needs and maximize the skills of the children of all abilities. I am concerned about the child who received a two on their A/P tests instead a three. I am also concerned about the child who earned four instead of a five. The objective should be to have high participation rates in advanced classes where children develop superior skills as evidenced by high regents test scores, A.P. scores and SAT Scores which currently don't exist. Then we can be sure that our students are graduating from the district ready for college level work at the college of their choice!!!
I wish the BOE shared my concerns but as a group their ideology has blinded them to the test results that are right in front of them. Instead of directing the Superintendent to take corrective action they have joined him by criticizing the motives of concerned taxpayers and parents.
The taxpayers are paying $30,000 per student. The HCSD has the funding to serve the interest of students of every ability.
Tracking Yes! Exclusion No! No more BOE excuses!

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