Santa Barbara School District to Begin Grouping Honors and College-Prep Students in Same Classes | School zone


the Santa Barbara Unified School District is investigating a new curriculum that places honors students and college-preparatory students in the same classrooms, a move intended to better understand students’ abilities and potential.

“We are considering a change in our secondary school courses, which have traditionally been referred to as honors or college prep courses,” said Shawn Carey, assistant superintendent of secondary education for the district.

In the past, students decided whether to enroll in college preparatory classes or specialized classes. Under the new plan, students would be in the same classrooms but would remain on different rosters so the teacher could see them. Teachers would always provide differentiated instruction to students.

“A teacher can see, these are the students who signed up for honors, and these are the students who signed up for college prep,” Carey said.

Honors classes are usually for students who are above grade level, while college preparatory classes are usually for students at grade level or below.

It’s not a science, however, and some parents strongly advocate for students to be honored. Other students in the college prep courses might qualify for the honors courses, but for some reason did not enroll in those courses.

Carey said there will be different types of homework within the four walls of each classroom. The idea is that there are students in college preparatory classes who may not have registered for honors but are qualified to be in those honors classes. The new format, Carey said, would allow teachers to assess whether a student should be moved to honors.

“Students who originally enrolled in college prep, but should receive honor credit, could make this switch,” Carey said. “We wouldn’t demote anyone who signed up for honors in college prep and take that away from them.”

Carey said part of the change is due to system barriers in education.

“We are seeing data that tells us that there are systemic barriers to all students having appropriate and equitable access to rigorous and differentiated learning,” Carey said.

According to school district data, about 52% of students of color (not including Asians) were enrolled in advanced courses in high school. Including Asians, the number jumps to 86%. (The district breaks down its numbers to include Asians and non-Asians among students of color demographics.)

About 85% of white students are enrolled in advanced classes in high schools.

Carey said the district has seen an improvement in the achievement gap over the past few years, but has plateaued.

“For a variety of reasons, students select honors or they select college prep,” Carey said.

Even though students and parents have the choice of taking honors or college preparatory courses, students find themselves in a system of pathways that isn’t always in line with their abilities, she said. .

“We’ve identified some inequalities that break down along demographic lines,” Carey said.

She also noted that elementary school students are all grouped together, but when they enter middle school, they have the option of taking courses that put them on separate paths.

“We really believe that the pathway system, where students are separated into different classes, is part of that barrier,” Carey said.

The program is in various stages of piloting on campuses, depending on direction from the school board to address systems of inequity. Starting next fall, the program will be implemented in junior high schools.

Board member Virginia Alvarez said the concept sounded good in theory because she, too, wanted to create more opportunities. However, she wants to be “very careful” and make sure the change will have a positive outcome.

“The intention is noble. At the same time, we want to make sure that what we are getting into will be successful,” Alvarez said.

The issue was raised at a board meeting in October, and Alvarez said she wanted the topic to come back to the full board for discussion.

She also wants a district-wide pilot program, not just one school, because each district has its own personality, and she wants to hear formally from teachers about the plan.

“My concern is that personally I don’t think there’s enough information to make a decision,” Alvarez said. “I want to see the data disaggregated.”

– Noozhawk writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Login with Noozhawk on Facebook.


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