Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Parents Want Honors Classes: Let The Data Speak!

There is an interesting topic in the Community Forum, "Any Parents of Gifted Kids Out There?", where parents are expressing their frustration with SFUSD policies and practices regarding educational opportunities for gifted students. This is a particularly sensitive topic for middle school parents, and one that threatens to undermine the middle school feeder plan.

I compiled the following information from the middle school inventory on electives and honors classes and the historical demand for 2011-2012, which are available on the SFUSD website. SFUSD has a column in their inventory spreadsheet to note if a school employs tracking or not (see column 5, "Are Students Tracked?").


Here are the middle schools that offer Honors classes and track students, followed by the number of first choice requests:
AP Giannini: 554
Aptos: 499

Francisco: 99
Hoover: 287
Marina: 125
Presidio: 540
Roosevelt: 274


Here are the middle schools that DO NOT offer Honors classes or track students, followed by the number of first choice requests:
Denman: 97
Everett: 44
ISA: 21
King: 101
Lick ("algebra is slightly tracked"): 198
Vis Valley (applies to 7th and 8th grade): 31


According to the data, PARENTS WANT HONORS CLASSES AND CHALLENGING EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENTS FOR THEIR CHILDREN.


Of course, if you don't want honors classes for your child, then the spreadsheets on the SFUSD website are helpful for finding a school that matches your educational preferences.

- Donna

76 comments:

  1. What do you mean by - "Here are the middle schools that DO NOT offer Honors classes or track students"

    Am I missing something? Is there some other form of tracking employed other than honors classes? Perhaps you are indicating that differentiated learning is used in a gened class, but that would be so subjective and haphazard from class to class and school to school as to make it difficult to analyze.

    One other consideration is that some of the MSs without honors might not have a critical mass of high achieving students to constitute an honors class.

    Also, Donna, I caution you on your use of the title "Senor" in the other posts which could be construed as pejorative, given that Spanish has nothing to do with the topic.

    I pointed out on the forum that the very paltry district-wide allocation of $350K for Gifted and Talented was cut in half last year, while tens of millions in other Tier III flexible categorical funds were left untouched. This exemplifies the District's lack of interest in excellence and focus only on underachievement. That is an equity issue. Equity isn't just about addressing academic failure. It is about meeting the needs of all school children. Garcia's policies are racist.

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  2. Or maybe parents just want their kids to go to a whiter school.

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  3. Anecdotally, I agree with Donna's assessment that parents do want honors classes for their children. I think that while it's easy to show correlation, that doesn't necessarily show causation.

    Regardless, I think this is a moot point. What parent of a high achieving child would not want Honors classes as an option? This goes without saying and I agree with Don's argument that Garcia's policies are discriminatory (not sure if they're racist per se - but they heavily favor academically challenged kids OVER those who are high achieving). Just like special education kids have IEPs (which are individualized learning plans) gifted and talented kids should be placed in classrooms where the educational level is appropriate for them.

    But I feel like I'm preaching to the choir here. I'm quite discouraged with the BOE and hope I don't have to be (but will do so if necessary) one of those families that moves out of SF.

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  4. I know of several parents who declined to attend a school with an honors program; here is an excerpt from an email discussion with me on the topic

    "I did not like that the school has an "honors" program, having been through a bifurcated system myself. Actually, I had a 5th grade teacher that did not like me and my friend. When we went to the brand new junior high the next year we both found ourselves in the "Dumb class". I remember we played "Around the World" with flash cards where a student would go to the start of the other students sitting and then the teacher would pull out a flash card with division, mulitiplication, etc on it. Whoever won went to the next student. The goal was to make it around the entire class. I won and the student I beat fell on the floor crying and distraught that one of the dumb kids beat him. Then some of his classmaters stared taunting him because a "dumb" kid beat him. I remember that moment all too clearly. At the end of 6th grade they had a big assembly and I got this surprise award for being the best student (a school letter). I was moved out of the dumb class for 7th grade. Anyway, I will have nothing to do with any system that places their children in a bifurcated school like that. And it isn't just about my child and if he will be in a dumb class or not. I don't want to put him into that kind of environment. It is completely idiotic and I can't believe that principal is doing this."

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  5. "One other consideration is that some of the MSs without honors might not have a critical mass of high achieving students to constitute an honors class."

    Causation? Correlation? Who knows...

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  6. Somehow this comment was lost...

    A more "white" school? Neither Hoover nor Aptos are much more than 10% white as per school profile... Hardly a majority, not even a plurality!

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  7. I would love to hear from parents who actually have kids in middle school what the experience is like and what they know about honors and non honors classes. It's very difficult from the outside to know how it really works on the ground.
    Certainly in elementary school I've seen that differentiation can be very challenging and often isn't possible either because the teacher isn't up to it or because there are simply too many kids who need more help.
    So, middle school parents - tell us what it's like at your kids' school. Feel free to say anonymous, but please name the school as that will help all of us understand the issues.

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  8. The first day of 6th grade at Presidio, my son was not in Honors classes. He should have been (test scores, etc., indicated so, it was a clerical error) and we got him moved.

    We HAD to; the first day of (non-Honors) English class, his homework was to come home, read a couple of chapters in a grammar-heavy textbook, and write 39 terms & definitions in his notebook.

    The next day, after moving into Honors, he came home and had to storyboard the Sumerian creation myth. They went on to create puppets, act out their myths, and read a novel set in ancient Sumeria. It was an amazing blend of English and Social Studies, and a real positive challenge.

    That said, I wish ALL kids in SFUSD got to do things like this.

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  9. Gladly. My daugther attends Hoover. She is in 6th grade honors. The Honors classes consist of kids who have scored around the 95th percentile or higher on state tests, so it's not all the GATE identified kids, just a specific subset.

    There are 2 or 3 honors classes in 6th grade (my daughter wasn't sure). Her class has one teacher for a back to back math/science class in the morning, and a different teacher for a back to back language arts/social studies class. She has orchestra in the morning, and PE in the afternoon, and both classes have both honors and non-honors kids in them.

    In 6th grade, you can either be "all honors," or "non honors," so you can't, for example, be in honors math/science but not honors language arts/social studies. 6th grade immersion students are also not able to be placed in honors, due to "scheduling issues."

    In November of 6th grade my daughter's math teacher is already utilizing some 7th grade and 8th grade material with the class, and exposing them to some material from the algebra curriculum. Overall, the pace is much quicker. I know they had a sub one day, who hadn't realized they were an honors class. A student finally raised his hand and asked the teacher to please speed up a bit.

    It's a little harder for me to tell in LA/SS/Science what "advanced material" is being offered. I know she has been able to choose her own books for SSR (sustained silent reading) and has recently read 1984 in this context.

    I'd be glad to answer any other questions. We've been thrilled with Hoover so far, even though she has to take 2 MUNI buses to get there.

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  10. Gladly. My daugther attends Hoover. She is in 6th grade honors. The Honors classes consist of kids who have scored around the 95th percentile or higher on state tests, so it's not all the GATE identified kids, just a specific subset.

    There are 2 or 3 honors classes in 6th grade (my daughter wasn't sure). Her class has one teacher for a back to back math/science class in the morning, and a different teacher for a back to back language arts/social studies class. She has orchestra in the morning, and PE in the afternoon, and both classes have both honors and non-honors kids in them.

    In 6th grade, you can either be "all honors," or "non honors," so you can't, for example, be in honors math/science but not honors language arts/social studies. 6th grade immersion students are also not able to be placed in honors, due to "scheduling issues."

    In November of 6th grade my daughter's math teacher is already utilizing some 7th grade and 8th grade material with the class, and exposing them to some material from the algebra curriculum. Overall, the pace is much quicker. I know they had a sub one day, who hadn't realized they were an honors class. A student finally raised his hand and asked the teacher to please speed up a bit.

    It's a little harder for me to tell in LA/SS/Science what "advanced material" is being offered. I know she has been able to choose her own books for SSR (sustained silent reading) and has recently read 1984 in this context.

    I'd be glad to answer any other questions. We've been thrilled with Hoover so far, even though she has to take 2 MUNI buses to get there.

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  11. My kid is in first grade at an elementary that feeds to a middle school that does not offer honors, as an ideological decision.

    I can say that if this persists over the next five years without any change, I will absolutely not keep him in SFUSD for middle school (unless he can go to a different school).

    I can absolutely see why a school might be opposed, as an equity and school culture matter, to having an "honors track" such that there are effectively two separate schools within the school. But there is no valid reason in my mind to oppose having honors *classes*. Some kids will be in all or nearly all honors classes. Kids of age-typical academic abilities could be encouraged to take one or two honors courses in the areas where they are most skilled or motivated. Even a kid who is behind in some things might be able to consider honors in others.

    There is no way that a teacher can teach 35 middle-schoolers in a heterogeneous, untracked classroom without shafting both the highest and lowest achieving kids. I don't feel confident that my child would get an adequate education in middle school without honors or some sort of streaming/tracking, and it will be the make or break issue as to whether my family sticks with public.

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  12. "Or maybe parents just want their kids to go to a whiter school."

    I don't discount racial bias in school-picking, but I think it is more complicated than this statement would suggest. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that parents don't want their kids to go to a blacker school; they do seem willing (to a point) to send their kids to an Asian school (see: Lowell).

    Anyway, the correlation is a bit muddy even there--see stats below--Lick, a largely Latino school, has a higher % of white kids than A.P., and ISA has a higher % of white kids than relatively popular Roosevelt. So there are probably other factors going on here, including the honors issue as suggested by Donna.

    Popular Aptos and Hoover as well as Lick and SF Community are both are in range for % of white kids overall in the district (low double digits). Alice Fong Yu and Giannini are not far off, and Presidio is a bit high. Rooftop, CACS and Lilienthal (all K8) over-represent white families compared to the district.

    Aptos in particular is quite diverse and looks very much like the district (large Asian and Latino populations, plus white, African American, Filipino, etc.). Yet Aptos is third most popular.

    Perhaps the lesson is that diverse schools that have at least a critical mass of white + Asian kids will not be an impediment to middle class families. And then other factors come into play as well.

    Aptos 12%
    Hoover 14%
    AP Giannini 9%
    Lick 11%
    Roosevelt 5%
    Presidio 17%
    Francisco 5%
    SF Community 13%
    Alice Fong Yu 10%
    Lawton 7%
    Lilienthal 32%
    Vis Valley 3%
    MLK 1%
    Everett 3%
    ISA 6%
    Revere 3%
    Carmichael 4%
    CACS 44%
    Rooftop 22%
    Denman 3%

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  13. and Marina Middle School white % = 4%.

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  14. I have several problems with an "honors" track in middle school, and here is just one of them: It assumes that there are only two types of students--honors and non-honors. Given the diversity of backgrounds, experience, and abilities in any large group, surely there is as much need to differentiate the curriculum within an honors or GE track as there is in a school without tracking.

    I have had children both in a middle school honors track and in a school without an honors track, and the only real distinction I saw between the two schools was the quality of the teachers. For whatever reason, the teachers in the non-honors school were heads and shoulders above the teachers in the honors track at the other school. The teachers in the honors track were much more rigid and seemed to have no incentive to move the students to the next level--after all, they were already IN honors, so they must be smart, right? If the school environment is basically safe I would choose the school with the better teachers every time, regardless of how they classify the students.

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  15. "and Marina Middle School white % = 4%."

    Check out the percentage white and Asian of the honors tracks in these schools.

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  16. "We HAD to; the first day of (non-Honors) English class, his homework was to come home, read a couple of chapters in a grammar-heavy textbook, and write 39 terms & definitions in his notebook."

    And how are those kids in the non-honors class doing?

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  17. My daughter is in 7th grade Honors at Francisco and her experience is very similar to those described by Hoover and Aptos parents. First, students can enter the program based on GATE, grades, CST scores, and teacher recommendation. There are at least 2 honors classes (maybe more?)

    In sixth grade, she also had block scheduling with one teacher for math/science class in the morning, and a different teacher for language arts/social studies class. In science, they incorporated reading the “weather page” from the Chronicle and did assignments based on that information, i.e. where had earthquakes occurred during the past week (earthquakes are big part of science curriculum), calculate the average temperatures (incorporating math) and the students liked reading the newspaper and found it grown up. They also studied the scientific method and developed and documented their own science experiments. They went on a field trip to the SF recycling center to learn more about the environment.

    The 6th grade honors teachers also taught the GE classes which I am sure were very similar – who has time to create two curriculums?! All students are given a planner and taught how to use it. Students were all expected to use a large binder so they were organized and didn’t loose their work.

    My husband handles the math portion of the curriculum and he seemed satisfied with what she was learning and she scored advanced on the CST.

    The whole 6th grade goes on an overnight camping trip to the Headlands Institute which I helped chaperone and it was very educational, fun and cohesive class experience (http://www.naturebridge.org/headlands/school-group-programs). Students will go again this year.

    In 7th grade science, they are studying biology and genetics. On Halloween their assignment was to make an edible cell model (watermelon with gummy worms, m&ms, milk duds, etc representing all the basic parts of the cell – she really learned it!). They will be doing frog dissection later this year.

    In 7th grade language arts they combine their reading with the social studies content, i.e. studying the midieval world in various places around the world; so they are reading classic tales of ancient Greece, Arabian Nights and King Arthur (as well as modern novels, short stories, poetry and drama). Students write formal essays, create skits and make posters and power point presentations. This is similar to 6th grade when they were studying ancient Greece and developed and performed skits and went on field trip to Asian Art Museum.

    Unfortunately, we have limited electives. We have a large population of English Language Learners who have to take added English classes instead of electives which limits elective availability to what science and math teachers are able to implement. In sixth grade, she did have creative writing as an elective (with the LA teacher) and wrote a novella! Who knew the 6th grade science teacher could teacher such an amazing chorus! This year her science teacher is teaching art and seems to be doing a good job.

    The PE program is award winning and teaches students life-long exercise lessons like learning how to ride a bike!

    There is a free after school program associated with the Beacon and she does knitting on Tuesdays and Student Council on Wednesdays. Even though there is no language program, since all her neighborhood friends go to the same school, we were able to organize a weekly Spanish class.

    Oh yeah, it is across the street from our apartment – winning!

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  18. So, now that we've heard --way too much in my view -- about who wonderful Honors classes are, perhaps we should hear from those in the non-honors classes? I have a good friend who teaches at one of the above-mentioned middle schools that separates classes into honors and non-honors, and this is what this person tells me: The non-Honors class this person is teaching is 35 kids, ranging from kids who are barely treading water at grade level to kids who are below grade level to kids with IEPs who are significantly below grade level. The class is interspersed with kids with behavioral problems too. The result: the teacher finds it virtually impossible to make any headway in class. It is all this person can do to keep order. There are just too many kids with significant problems and it is overwhelming to this teacher. This teacher told me that, if there was any kind of mix of kids, he could at least make some headway. The combination of ALL the kids having problems makes it impossible for this tacher. This is a teacher with 20 years of experience, and, by the way, this teacher teaches BOTH Honors and Non-Honors classes.

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  19. "The teachers in the honors track were much more rigid and seemed to have no incentive to move the students to the next level--after all, they were already IN honors, so they must be smart, right?"

    This was our experience with Lowell, as well. It has the advantages of an amazing variety of classes, including world languages, arts, lots of AP classes. And it is oh-so-safe (not sure what the security guards do all day). And the test scores are amazing. But (some of) the teachers seem to feel they can just give out information, and expect the kids to give back the same information. Voila, an A.

    Now to be fair, many students and their families seem to love this method, as any hard-working student can memorize stuff and get As and get into Cal, UCLA, etc. But it is not teaching critical thinking skills or creative thinking either.

    Lick on the middle school and Mission on the high school levels both have a reputation for having dynamic teachers, test scores notwithstanding. The test scores follow the demographics in all cases, but they do not necessarily correlate with good teaching.

    The question is the mix of good teaching and atmosphere in the classroom. Too much disruption equals no learning. Not inspired teaching, even with smart kids, is kind of a damper too.

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  20. "Check out the percentage white and Asian of the honors tracks in these schools."

    James Lick puts the kids in all the same classes (no honors tracking) and has a higher percentage of white kids (11%) than AP Giannini, Roosevelt, Alice Fong Yu, or Lawton -- the % is roughly equivalent to that of Aptos. And Lick's most significant population is Latino, not high-scoring Chinese kids as is the mix over at Presidio or AP. So while Lick may be the exception that proves the rule, there is a middle school that has proven it is possible to draw middle class, white families into a largely poor and immigrant school (that is not filled with high-scoring Chinese kids), where all the kids are together and not tracked. Lick also happens to have amazing teachers.

    Aptos has moved to a tracking model that is more flexible than in the past. Kids can be placed in honors math but remain in GE English language arts, for example. Kids can be in special ed for some classes and GE for another. And Aptos has added an even faster math track than honors for kids who are really accelerated. So there are options beyond honors versus no honors.

    Meanwhile, this is a great conversation, but whatever happened to the school board promises to address middle school quality? I can't find anything about it, even though I think there was a committee supposed to address this issue. All I'm hearing is crickets.

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  21. I know that Francisco has problems with some of its GE student population like those described above. I went on the field trip with the entire 6th grade and some of the students were challenging! However, it is my experience that the student population is changing as more students choose the school rather than being placed there as a last resort. Just like it is important to assign a diversity of students to a classroom, it is important to assign a diversity of students to the schools, too. I see this school significantly changing with the implementation of the feeder system. The school has a excellent core group of teachers, parents and leadership to take the it to the next level.

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  22. I think the issue that was raised initially, that by and large parents are interested in schools that offer honors programs, is an important one.

    As for James Lick, it's important to remember that 1/2 the school is Spanish Immersion, so parents may be choosing it in spite of its lack of honors classes, not for its decision not to have honors classes.

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  23. Many of my parent friends chose Lick because of the small class sizes that have been afforded due to the state grant (that will be drying up in a couple of years.)

    I do wonder what will happen when Lick has to have classes of 35-37, just as Aptos, etc. have to due to the way the district allocates Weighted Student Formula.

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  24. Well, here is one college educated, middle class parent who does not want to send her kid to a middle school with Honors classes.

    Indeed, many of the honors programs here do sound tremendous. My question is this: why shouldn't all students be given the opportunity to think critically, express their creativity and challenge themselves? If the non-honors curriculum isn't good enough for your child, why do you think it IS good enough for someone else's?

    The reason many educators oppose tracking is that in practice it raises serious social justice issues. If you take a diverse school and add tracking, what usually happens is that the honors classes are predominantly white and Asian, and the non-honors classes are black and Latino. The same patterns hold with AP classes in high school. This pattern then continues on to college admissions.

    Aptos is an example of this. At Aptos, 83% of white kids are proficient in reading. 72% of Asian kids are. But only 29% of African American kids are. I suspect that very few black kids are in Aptos' honors classes. What this means is that the vast majority of the white and Asian kids are going on to high school with a decent chance of graduating and then going to college, while 71% of the black kids are facing a MUCH more uphill road. I deeply respect the District's commitment to closing this gap - I just don't think they are doing it fast enough.

    As a good San Francisco liberal, I don't want our school system to perpetuate historical patterns of injustice. In my view, tracking does exactly that - essentially it is segregation within a school.

    I want all our kids to get a great education, regardless of their background, neighborhood or family situation. That is why I support differentiation. It is MUCH MUCH MUCH harder to do. It takes rigorous teacher training and a very deep commitment to equity. And it takes money. But I would rather my kid be taught by people who are practicing social justice than have her grow up watching her black friends drop out of school while her white friends go to college. I would prefer that, even if it means that her academic education has gaps. I can fill in the gaps myself. But I can't make the world fair by myself.

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  25. Maybe some kids work harder than others and achieve more as a consequence. There is a thing called effort and another thing called responsibility. These two are always forgotten in the forest of social justice dialogue, just as it is forgotten at the Board of Education.

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  26. Oh, no doubt some kids work harder and take more responsibility than others. But does that really explain the 54 point gap between white kids and black kids at Aptos? To me that points to something more systemic - for some reason our schools are not meeting a lot of kids where they are at and pulling them up to proficiency. I fully believe the kids who are now struggling are capable of equal levels of achievement, given the right kind of support. Which they clearly are not getting now.

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  27. Correlation is not causation. The black kids at Aptos are correlated with lower scores than the scores of white kids, but what if you took the different SES into account? Maybe the difference is entirely one of low income? Maybe most of the black kids are low income and most of the white kids are middle income. Then the gap is not a matter of race, but one of income.

    Recall the achievement gap of the raw scores of public school students compared to private school students in the Nation's Report Card. The gap for public school disappeared once the statistics were controlled for economic status. Public schools scores were just as good as private school scores once an apples to apples comparison was made across similar economic levels.

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  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  29. I think the issue is more than just "scores." From these descriptions, honors kids are getting access to collaborative, project-based learning -- things that keep curiosity alive and foster a love of inquiry, and that, oddly enough, also work wonders with kids who are not high achievers.

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  30. The gap is still there if you look at SES. Overall, English Language proficiency at Aptos schoolwide is 63%; for socio-disadvantaged students it is 54.1%. I couldn't find a number for advantaged students, but I'm sure if I could find one, you would see a huge gap.

    So call it what you will - we aren't meeting the needs of poor kids or we aren't meeting the needs of black kids. Either way, the reality is that 49% of SFUSD students are not proficient in English. All students deserve high quality instruction that meets their needs. I don't think tracking is the system that would achieve this; I think that it would only exacerbate the inequalities that already exist.

    BTW, I don't mean to pick on Aptos - you would see similar patterns throughout the district.

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  31. That 49% number is for 8th graders - the number comes from last year's Beyond the Talk report.

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  32. Deep breath.

    Our experience at Hoover hasn't been that my daughter gets "better" material in honors than she did the 1 week she was not placed there (the "cut off" shifted slightly, probably to fill the classes). In fact, I think that ALL students should be exposed to interesting and different ways of approaching the material.

    The difference has been speed of presentation, which has been a huge motivator/difference for my daughter.

    I think the difference is most obvious in math, one place where it's extremely hard to differentiate instruction in a mixed-level class.

    For the language arts part, even within the Honors class, I'm seeing differentiation, and I'd be comfortable with this approach over a larger range of abilities. The class will do some work together in a text/workbook -- reading the same text, gaining skills like understanding how a story flows, how certain words or turns of phrase can be used for emphasis or to change the flow of the story, etc.

    Then they each choose books (usually from the library, either at school or public library) to further apply these skills. They do book reports based on these books. This has enabled my daughter to read books like 1984, or an autobiography of Roald Dahl, while her classmates may be reading less challenging books.

    Yes, it stinks that at Aptos some kids are still performing significantly below proficient. Doing away with honors classes isn't going to change that. In fact, it may make it worse, as the teachers will have to focus on such a broad range of abilities that the kids at both ends of the curve will necessarily be lost.

    This conversation tends to circle around honors, but really I think the conversation needs to shift a little.

    When asked "do you want your child taught material that is at his/her level at a pace that is comfortable and perhaps a little challenging for him/her?" there are few who would answer "no, I don't want that for my child."

    As I explained above, I'm pretty comfortable with heterogenous grouping in subjects where it's easy to modify the material to accommodate multiple children in the same classroom -- for example, the way I described in language arts above.

    In math, let me use "adding fractions with different denominators" as an example. My daughter was taught this concept, and pretty well mastered it in 4th grade. It was presented again in 5th grade, and at first it looked like a review. Then one week passed. Then 2, then 3, then 4... still, adding fractions with different denominators. FINALLY they moved on to something new, but not before my daughter was going numb from the 20th hmoework worksheet on the same concept.

    When touring middle schools, I happened upon a 6th grade math class "reviewing" this same topic. It was at a school with no honors track. I think that alone sounded the death knell for me on non-tracked middle schools.

    In my daughter's 6th grade honors math class, I have no doubt that the topic might come up, as a reminder if kids are having trouble remembering what to do with different denominators when solving algabraic equations. BUT she does not need several weeks of lessons on this topic AGAIN.

    Again, let's move the conversation away from "honors," and towards "teaching at or above the level of each student so they all learn something."

    Thanks.

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  33. Hi 8:46,

    You have made an assumption that because there is an achievement gap it necessarily follows that the system is not meeting the needs of underperforming students. I suspect that in some case that is correct where certain services are not provided and should be, but I do not assume that it is correct in all cases or, for that matter, even most cases. There are many students who have been raised in environments without any inculcation of the value of education. As a result, they put in almost no effort. I don't apply that analysis to elementary students in practice because they have yet to develop or not a significant sense of personal responsibility as amatter of age. But you have retreated from assigning any personal responsibility to the student's role in their own education. You simply want to lay the entire blame on the doorstep of the school district.

    This is why it is important to have honors in middle school. At that point students who do not demonstrate a willingness to be part of the learning process often begin to seriously act out in school. I'm not saying to give up on these kids by any means. But I am saying that they make non-tracked classes extremely difficult to teach to. That means high learners get the short end of the sick when the teacher has to teach to the lowest common denominator and deal with disciplinary issues all day long.

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  34. Sometimes teachers with a classroom full of kids who have been identified as very bright get lazy. I have heard this happens at Lowell a lot. The best HS math class I had was when I got out of honors and into the "jock" class for trigonometry. The teacher actually TAUGHT us the material instead of leaving us to figure it out for ourselves. I loved trig after hating and not learning algebra or geometry in "honors" classes. For English, though, I was better off in honors. We were expected to write longer, better papers, read more widely and deeply, and because the students were motivated, classroom discussion was noticeably more lively.

    When touring middle and high schools, I think it's more important to look for teachers who have their classes engaged than tracking per se. Of course if you have a student who scores at the top in a lot of things, you want some assurances that they will have similar peers and be kept challenged. I would NOT consider a school where it's an either/or thing--you're either all honors or all not-honors.

    Look at both public and private schools and compare what you see.

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  35. In talking with my coworkers who have kids in public school, many if not most, send their high achieving kids to Kumon, hire a private tutor, send them to specialized math clubs/camp, etc... In other words pay $$$$$ to keep their child challenged. It seems this starts in about 4th grade.

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  36. I think that offering an honors program at low performing schools may be a stepping stone to overall school improvement. I see it as similar to offering a language immersion program which we have seen improve the GE programs at low performing elementary schools. The honors programs, like language immersion, increases diversity by drawing more higher-SES, White and Asian parents. With increased diversity, there is less strain on the school resources, and these new parents bring new visibility to the school, advocate for more accountability, increase fundraising and other reforms. I think such programs have and will facilitate improved quality much faster than a non-tracking method and it will benefit the entire school community. Once there is more diversity at all schools, there will be more opportunities for project-based, interactive education throughout the school.

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  37. 8:46 here.

    I agree with Michelle and others that this conversation needs to move beyond honors / not-honors. Good teaching strategies and engaged teachers are important for all students.

    I think it is critical that we parents be pushing the District to develop a real Quality Middle Schools program. As they do that, I don't think simply adding Honors or magnet schools would be good enough. Lots of districts have done those in the past, and while they may help some students, they are expensive and won't address many of the challenges that the district faces. What other approaches might work? Here are some ideas that I think would benefit all students:

    1. Smaller class sizes. 35 adolescents is a lot, whether they have discipline issues or not.

    2. Real, substantive, elective options. I don't mean some semester long rotation through art, music, computers, whatever. I mean properly developed, multi-year elective programs that students can actually CHOOSE, so that they are doing things they are interested in. Accounting, economics, programming, web design, there are lots of cool things that could be done.

    3. Some kind of system so that kids can proceed at their own pace, especially in math. I absolutely agree with what Michelle says. It is a waste of time for some kids to go over fractions 18 times, but others may need to spend more time - not because they aren't smart, but just because people learn different things at different rates. So let them go at their own pace through the material. Khan Academy, perhaps? Other online options? Independent study? Advanced research projects?

    4. A fully developed world languages program, for all kids, not just immersion ones. In every school.

    5. Service learning. Internships. Connecting our kids to their community.

    6. Integrating Silicon Valley into our schools. We live in the global center of technological innovation, but the middle schools I have toured did not seem to have classes on coding, web design, or even keyboarding. Hello? Perhaps I am wrong on this and I just didn't see these things, but if I'm not we need to get to work on this.

    7. An emphasis on writing, research, information competency and critical thinking. All kids in all classes should be writing papers, lab reports, whatever. Write, write, write. Every week they should be turning in something. They should be learning how to tell good information from bad information and make critical judgements.

    8. Libraries with full-time librarians who can teach information competency and research skills.

    What other ideas do folks have?

    Don, of course everyone would agree that all kids need to learn to take responsibility for themselves. That is one of the things they should be learning in school and elsewhere. But I think 6th - 8th graders are still kids, and if they are not on the right track for whatever reason, then yes, the adults in their lives - the district - should do everything it can to get them back on it. I'm happy to place that onus on the district. And I think that tracking does the opposite. If you take a bunch of kids, and place some in an honors track, you are saying to at-risk students, "Here is a group of kids we think has the potential to succeed. You are not one of them." That is why the curriculum needs to be creative and challenging for all kids, so that wherever is going on in their life, they can be engaged in school. I've heard tales about Mission High School in the bad old days, when students were expected to show up for attendance, and then spent the rest of the day on the couches in the hallway or in "study hall". I hope those kinds of things don't go on anymore, but I'm sure there are still pockets in the district in which teachers and administrators have basically written off the kids.

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  38. 12:10,

    My point is the district cannot suffice where family and community has failed. This has been demonstrated time and again and is the basic rationale behind the widely held belief that the intractable achievement gap is related more to poverty and its various cultures than it is related to equal opportunity and equal treatment.

    You are ignoring the fact that tremendous monetary resources go into compensatory education- almost one-third of SFUSD's entire $0.5B budget. It hasn't worked or has been spent poorly in any case. Not only that the union has created roadblocks to reform by being against extending the school day to provide some of the opportunities that would require more time given the extra time already allocated to remediation under the current regimen.

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  39. I would agree with Michelle that instruction appropriate to the child's achievement in math is critical. It doesn't matter if you call it "honors" or not. I have 3 kids with totally different middle school experiences.

    One went to Sterne, a private school for kids with learning disabilities, where each student was grouped for math and English into achievement-based groups. Didn't matter whether the kid was in 6th grade or 12th grade. That worked really well, and my daughter, who struggled in math, and was barely working at 3rd grade level by the end of 5th grade, graduated from 8th grade at grade level, a Herculean achievement. She is still on grade level as a junior in high school. But she was still able to access more advanced curriculum in English where she was ahead of grade level. Other subjects (history, science, etc.) were taught by grade level, with modifications made for an individual's learning difference. This would be my model for all middle schools, whether they are designed to serve students with learning disabilities or not.

    One kid went to James Lick, with no honors. Her experience there was very mixed. She is very advanced in math, and it just didn't work for her to be in such heterogenous groups of students. She loves math, but being in math class was like watching paint dry. Some of the kids were working about 5 grades below her. The teachers at Lick are top notch, but that spread made it impossible for them to address the needs of all their students. She was appropriately challenged in language arts and other subjects though. She did not have much homework at all, but I suspect she just used her in-class time efficiently because I know other kids did have homework. I appreciated the warm, friendly environment of Lick, but think their math program needs some thoughtful reflection to maximize achievement for all students.

    Child 3 goes to Aptos and is in the honors track, basically because I requested it (she qualified in language arts but not in math.) She is having a good experience so far and is making good academic progress. Her teachers are no-nonsense and are really insisting that she buckle down and get to work, which is just what she needs. Overall, the faculty is uneven. Some teachers are pretty good, but others are really unprofessional. I can't think of another profession that would allow grownups to get away the yelling and emotional displays that teaching does. This was probably the biggest surprise after James Lick, where the staff was unfailingly professional. I believe the principal, now in his second year, is working hard to get his "professionals" to act like it.

    The upshot is that the district needs to take a hard look at what middle schools are doing well and where they can improve. Last year they redesigned the middle school assignment process as PART of the Quality Middle Schools initiative. But, just as so many of us feared, it appears that assignment was the beginning, middle, and end of the Quality Middle Schools initiative. A lot of people are eagerly waiting for an update.

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  40. Time Magazine has an article by Fareed that praises California public education when Steve Jobs was in high school, and says that we are a disaster now, or something like that. The public school student body now is completely different from when Steve Jobs was in high school. Half of all California students taking the science exams recently were Hispanic. That means differences in language ability and in backgrounds of the parents. We cannot make easy comparisons. Not statewide and not at Aptos.

    The principals at each middle school are the professionals. I tend to not want to micromanage and let those principals decide on honors or not. Recognizing that math is the class that students hate the most, I'd like to see Algebra offered as Honors even if the other subjects do not have Honors. We are not creating smart and dumb groups of students. We might be recognizing some students as better than other students in this one subject, but that is not news to them.

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  41. Charlie, not sure what your point is above...

    I think what a lot of us experienced middle school parents (I've had two kids in SFUSD MS) are seeing is just how uneven the schools are ACROSS the district, and even WITHIN a school.

    I don't accept that a principal just gets to decide what they provide at any given middle school for students. I DO think its appropriate for that principal to decide how they are going to deliver an agreed upon standard.

    It's ridiculous that school by school they decide whether to differentiate or not. But I don't think that is the fault of the principals, it's the fault of the SFUSD administration - specifically Jeannie Pon, whose job is to supervise middle schools, and also Richard Carranza who supervises her. They are simply not doing their jobs when it comes to addressing the state of our SFUSD middle schools.

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  42. 9:36,

    I would place responsibility for a standardized approach at the foot of the BOE. It is their charge to develop and monitor the policies of the District in conjunction with the administration when appropriate. If the administration cannot independently resolve the honors issue after more than two years of a middle school equity initiative, where is the Board?

    I agree that it is ludicrous to have principals decide on what programs to offer. Honors like core subject remediation is not an elective.

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  43. All middle schools should offer honors. This way we can make it so people with good grades and options will want to go to schools that might have a bad rap that causes white flight, private flight, etc. If there are a bunch of kids who do poorly and not only that, disrupt and distract and hold others back, there should be a track for smart students to be able to learn without said distraction.

    That being said, Lowell should make an adjustment for honors. Their admissions should be test-based, not grade-based, like Boston Latin. It can be a disadvantage if your child gets hard-graders.

    But Grades 6-8 are important years. Children who study hard should have the right to study with other kids who study hard and take school seriously.

    Poor students who at least respect others' rights to learn are one thing, but poor students who intentionally disrupt are another.

    Kids at Denman, Lick, Everett, VV, Horace Mann, there are a lot of smart kids in these schools as the racial stats show, the Asian average at VV is not bad. So you can creatge a Presidio within VV and a Giannini within Everett if you create a good GATE program. This would be a good thing and lead to more San Franciscans getting the skills they need to get into top Universities and earn top money as adults, which will come back to our City as tax revenue.

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  44. @12:41 Yes, exactly. AND, frankly, I believe there are kids who would benefit from honors at those schools already, and I find the "social justice" argument to be, to put it bluntly, racist. (They seem to imply that the Latino kids wouldn't be in honors.)

    I would have chosen James Lick for my daughter (<1/2 the commute that she has now, only one bus, great electives) if they had any homogeneous grouping.

    Michelle

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  45. "In talking with my coworkers who have kids in public school, many if not most, send their high achieving kids to Kumon, hire a private tutor, send them to specialized math clubs/camp, etc... In other words pay $$$$$ to keep their child challenged. It seems this starts in about 4th grade."

    It is starting earlier in our family. I work on 2nd and 3rd grade math with my 1st grader and on 1st grade material with my preschooler. Both love it. We don't spend a lot of extra $$$ but a lot of extra time. I feel that public schools are a great way to learn functioning in an institution, dealing with bullies, being judged and still maintaining a sense of self-respect, interacting in a group without getting lost. Academics happen at home, and my heart goes out for the kids, whose parents don't have the time, money, motivation, or educational level to similarly challenge and support their kids.

    The project based learning that happens in some honors classes sounds great, but if you have kids in a class who can barely read, then this doesn't seem like the best use of those kids' time. I would like honors for my kids, not because they are geniuses, but because I feel the overall standards, even without the added challenges of socio-economic inequities (as well as, in some cases, complacent attitudes of some parents) and subsequent inability or unwillingness to give children the support at home that they need.

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  46. Oooops, incomplete sentence:

    I would like honors for my kids, not because they are geniuses, but because I feel the overall standards, even without the added challenges of socio-economic inequities (as well as, in some cases, complacent attitudes of some parents) and subsequent inability or unwillingness to give children the support at home that they need, ARE PAINFULLY LOW AT MOST SCHOOLS.

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  47. I'm the social justice person. I did not imply that there would not be black or Latino kids in honors classes in schools where honors are offered. Of course there would be (and are), and of course there are plenty of black and Latino and low-SES families that want advanced opportunities for their kids. But, and decades of research shows this, black, Latino and low SES kids do not enroll in honors and AP courses at the same rate that Asian and white kids and high SES kids do, and when they do enroll, they do not succeed in them at the same rate. This is just a statistical fact. The reasons for this, of course, are very complex. But, there is no reason to think the situation would be any different in SF (and in fact, it isn't, at those schools that do have Honors).

    So, there is something about the TRADITIONAL Honors model of teaching that just does not work for a substantial portion of the population of our schools. By putting our limited resources into traditional-style honors classes, we would be creating programs that would undoubtedly benefit some students (of all races), but would do nothing to help the majority of students (of all races). And we are already in a situation in which 49% of our 8th grade kids aren't proficient on the English tests. So I don't think going down that road will make life better.

    Research shows that low-SES kids without family support do well in academically challenging classes when as they have the extra tutoring and study skills support in the classroom that they need. Coupled with high expectations. Traditional honors classes don't necessarily do that, hence the inequity.

    So I feel we need to find solutions that work better for ALL students. Or, create a series of solutions, which collectively address the needs of ALL students. Clearly the needs of the quick learners aren't being met, and clearly the needs of the kids who need extra support of various kinds aren't being met either. Can we do honors, or self-paced learning, in a new way that does not promote inequity, and gets the needs of ALL the students met?

    For example, what about AVID? (Advancement vis Individual Determination), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advancement_Via_Individual_Determination. I know several SF middle schools have it. How is it working? Also interesting to me are STEM programs, in which combine the kinds of tutoring and study skills support that AVID has with rigorous science and math education. What about Khan Academy? There are schools on the peninsula that use Khan Academy in class everyday. What about RTI? http://www.rti4success.org/ And here is a program in Virginia called Young Scholars, which is an honors program that also seeks to address equity issues: http://www.fcps.edu/is/aap/column/columnyoungscholars.shtml I don't love any kind of honors program, but at least this one has equity as its core value.

    There are tons of interesting ideas out there in the education world.

    I feel like traditional Honors classes (along with AP classes and magnet schools) are tired old 1980s solutions. We need 21st century solutions that will help all San Franciscans. I think the issue here is that we need to FUNDAMENTALLY rethink middle school in SF, not just tack some honors classes on top of the fairly dysfunctional stuff we already have. The whole model needs to be rethought.

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  48. 10:49 - Experienced MS parent with kids in honors.

    I agree with you 100%

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  49. To the parent whose kid "mastered" adding fractions with different denominators in fourth grade: what elementary did your kid go to? My kids went to two different public elementaries here within the last two years and the subject was not started until fifth grade. And that's consistent with the Everyday Math program. Let me guess: YOU raced your kid ahead with this in fourth grade on your own -- no wonder your kid was bored in fifth when it came up. The honors obsessed parents are only going to turn off their kids when they rebel.

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  50. 10:49 - You bring up a lot of interesting programs and approaches but the "old-fashioned" honors approach costs absolutely nothing and that's pretty appealing to our non-low performing schools (that don't have any extra funding). It's important to remember that at some middle schools (Aptos at least) the "honors" track is almost half the school. It's really just a rough grouping to somewhat narrow the range that the teacher has to handle in one period. The same teachers teach both strands (which I think is very important for equity) so it's not like there are the A teachers and the B teachers. With class sizes of 36, there is not a lot of differentiation going on.

    My kid is in honors but just barely - it's the right place for him but we're not Lowell-bound. In spite of that, I think Lowell is super important for the subset of kids that want to go and do get in. It's important to invest in all levels of students. It's wrong-headed to resent what little bits are only offered to our top students (really only Lowell/SOTA in SFUSD). Some of those kids will be pushed to excel in something that matters to society (medicine, teaching, research, whatever) when they might have just coasted along elsewhere, without the extra push that a competitive environment provides. We should celebrate the kid whose hard work moves him/herself from Below Basic to Proficient and we should also celebrate the kid who is inspired to drive him/herself from Advanced to changing the world. Both are really important to society.

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  51. "But, and decades of research shows this, black, Latino and low SES kids do not enroll in honors and AP courses at the same rate that Asian and white kids and high SES kids do, and when they do enroll, they do not succeed in them at the same rate."

    We went to the free Science Fair at AT&T park last Sunday. 170 exhibitors, all with fantastic activities geared towards kids. More than 20,000 visitors, lots of them engaged and enthusiastic kids, but I struggled to find any non-white and non-Asian faces. Too sad. What is going on here? Again, it was a Sunday and an all-day event, so unless the parents of the families I did not see work weekend shifts, they should have been able to go. But they didn't, because the obviously thought it was not worth their time. I am trying hard to not be racist, to look beyond skin color, and to see kids for who they are rather than where they come from. But the thought to be locked into a school (or a class) with families who simply don't care isn't very appealing to me.

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  52. @9:55 Actually, we moved from a district where everyday math wasn't used. I don't "race my kid ahead" with classes, etc. She's a pretty normal kid who doesn't want to do extra school work on her own time (and therefore doesn't). She does read advanced books on her own time, but I don't see any advantage to forcing her to stay in the kids section of the library if she doesn't want to.

    I used the adding fractions with different denominators as an example, because I saw it in both 5th grade (her class) AND in 6th grade (a GE class at a middle school I toured). There were other concepts introduced in 5th grade that she mastered relatively quickly, but which were the main lesson for weeks and weeks after she learned them.

    What I'm looking for is real differentiated instruction, where each child is challenged, at least some of the time. Some children (and adults!) learn some concepts faster than others. Some need a little extra time. Both have the right to learn in school.

    For my child's needs, "honors" placement is as close to a guarantee that she's going to be challenged as I'm going to get.

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  53. 8:23

    You are correct that honors is the closest you're going to get to true differentiation. Some middle schools offer an advanced math track where 6th graders take pre-algebra, 7th take algebra, and 8th take geometry. Other middle schools don't. So where your child goes to middle school really matters if you have a child who is strong in math.

    On another topic, it would be interesting for the district or SFSU etc. to do a study correlating students' test scores with what they do outside of school. Almost every middle class family I know hires a tutor the minute they sense their child is having difficulty in math or language arts. The achievement gap may be due in part to the different response middle class and low-SES groups have when their child struggles. Middle class parents know how important it is that their child not fall behind, and are on top of it. Many Asian families routinely sign their kids up for Kumon just to keep them up to speed. I have never been asked about this on the SFUSD surveys.

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  54. @ Michelle,

    "Actually, we moved from a district where everyday math wasn't used"

    Michelle, would you teach your kids to read by withholding books from them? Because that is what the Everyday Math system amounts to.

    http://thesfkfiles-uncensored.blogspot.com/2011/10/everyday-math-open-letter-from-stanford.html

    -Marnie

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  55. Marnie -- I'm pretty underwhelmed by everyday math.


    I was responding to the suggestion of an earlier poster that I must have taught my daughter how to add fractions with different denominators outside of school if she knew how to do it in 4th grade, since this concept is not part of the EM curriculum until 5th. She learned it in an East coast school that doesn't use EM.

    Interesting article! Thanks for posting

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  56. @Michelle

    OK. Didn't mean to get on your case. Best.

    -Marnie

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  57. 8:23, that's why we should tax rich people to py for Kumon for poor kids. We should have a half percent sales tax and sales tax on private school tuition and Amazonandpay for Kumon for every child, not just white and Asian ones. It isn't fair. Gifted is a misnomer. They're gifted by having good parents, not by genetics. It isn't fair.

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  58. As part of NCLB any child at a "failing" school is offered free tutoring from a choice of tutoring services, like Sylvan, Kumon, etc. Guess what? Very few students who qualify take advantage of the free services. At our middle school, there are many opportunities for tutoring at lunch and after school, but very few of the students that would really benefit from such an intervention take advantage of this, either.

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  59. I'm going to have to continue to disagree on the question of whether "most" parents use Kumon or other outside sources, and whether this is the reason for the need for differentiation at the high performing end (gifted/honors/call it what you like.)

    Ultimately, some people learn things faster than some other people. Period. This is true of children, it is true of adults. I don't think that honors classes are only needed because some parents prepare their kids ahead of the curve.

    Again, let's reframe this conversation -- should all children receive material that challenges them in some way? Or is the goal of public education just to get everyone to be "proficient?"

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  60. Let's keep in mind that we are living in a state in which 43% of all children live in low income families. Let me repeat that. 43% of all kids in California live in low income families. Not far from half from all of the kids in California. Check out some stats: http://www.nccp.org/profiles/state_profile.php?state=CA&id=6

    Being middle class means that you have at least some disposable income. This means you can afford to send your kid to tutoring at the slightest sign of a problem. It also means that you probably have some free time to spend taking your kids to science fairs on the weekend. I found out about that science fair in via an email on a parenting list, and of course owning a computer with 24/7 broadband access is one of the perks of being middle class. Incidentally, it also means that you have at least some health insurance and that your kids probably have enough to eat every day. Low income families would probably like to have and do these things, too, but they can't afford them. Middle class families are also more likely to have two parents who can support each other.

    In today's America, being middle class likely means that you have a high school diploma and at least some college. That means you know how the system works, so you know that you need to get your kid some tutoring and not let them fall behind. You have been through the system and know how to get help if you need it. And if no one will help you, you know how to raise hell until someone does, and you feel entitled enough in our society to do that. And you probably speak English quite proficiently, so when you do raise hell people understand what you are talking (or screaming) about.

    Low income families are less likely to have college graduates in their families, so they know less about how the system works, and they do not know how to game the system to their kids' advantage the way many middle class families do. And they may be intimidated by the system as well. They are likely working jobs involving physical labor (such as cleaning houses or construction). Yes, they are probably on the crappy night or weekend shifts, or they are exhausted, so they can't spend their weekends browsing science or enrollment fairs. Perhaps they even have multiple jobs, and sometimes just one parent with multiple jobs, holding it all together. Many low income families are immigrants, and thus they may have little understanding of how the education system in this country works. And if they aren't happy about what is going on in their kids' school, they may not know who to turn to. Was the flyer about tutoring in the cafeteria published in all the languages spoken by the families in the school? And did those teenagers, who like all teenagers probably want to avoid extra work, give the flyers to their parents? Why is tutoring optional and not a structured part of the curriculum?

    We on this board are for the most part a pretty privileged group, with our computers and spare time. Let's not assume that we are better parents because of this. We don't love our kids more than poor people do. We just have more resources. So as we try to think about what we would like the district to do better, let's not do the shameful thing of thinking only of what's best for our kids. Let's at least try to extend the benefit of the doubt to other families and help them out too.

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  61. As for NLCB tutoring - wow, do you have it wrong! 200 students qualify at our school. There are 20 spots available in the supplemental education services program. That's it. For the entire district, there are 600 spots total in paid tutoring programs offered to kids who qualify.

    I love the lies people tell on here. Go on and keep constrtucting facts to support your worldview that poor people are lazy to help you sleep at night.

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  62. We are all painfully aware of the plight of CA’s children. We all know the statistical facts and that “the reasons for this, of course, are very complex.” There is little I can do to address these societal problems. However, I send my child to a school with a same school rating of 1, and I made the choice to send her there in order to help improve the school for the very families you are talking about. I am aware of the advantages my child has and challenges of many of her classmates.

    Just so we are clear, the population we are talking about was best described above as “…ranging from kids who are barely treading water at grade level to kids who are below grade level to kids with IEPs who are significantly below grade level. The class is interspersed with kids with behavioral problems too. The result: the teacher finds it virtually impossible to make any headway in class. It is all this person can do to keep order. There are just too many kids with significant problems and it is overwhelming to this teacher.”

    I will stipulate that traditional “teaching just does not work for a substantial portion of the population of our schools.”

    Now what? Our school has AVID – I think it worked great for my child – can’t answer for others at this time. The school has dedicated and caring teachers, staff, learning support specialists, counselors, nurse, parent liaison, Beacon, etc. They meet individually with families to address needs.

    I have been around long enough to see many programs come and go. I am looking for solutions to help the students at the school that I love and provide many hours per week of volunteer work, in addition to a full time job and my own family responsibilities. I am at the school questioning what is going on, putting items on the SSC agenda, raising these questions, writing grants for STEM equipment, and talking to teachers and staff. I happened to run into our school GATE coordinator at school the other day and questioned the teacher about making sure all interested students can take honors classes. As I am walking away, I realized I had forgotten to even ask how my own child was doing in his class!

    I am in the trenches here, reporting what I see and looking for answers. This discussion seems to have a number of knowledgeable, interested middle school parents and others. I am interested in taking this discussion to the next level and identify actions we can apply now to improve the situation. If not, I will just keep working to do what I think is best for my child’s school.

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  63. @8:51 AM

    Can you give us a way to contact you?

    You can contact me at:

    marniedunsmore@gmail.com

    -Marnie

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  64. I activated my email on my "community advocate" account profile so you can contact me that way.

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  65. 6:50, please stop smoking crack! Are you kidding me? They are spending an extra 8k a year at Muir over Alamo, per child, if that's not enough to make a difference and provide tutors, my suggestion is that they simply provide poor families a voucher. You could provide what Alamo provides, then $8,000 vouchers, each family could pay a $25 an hour tutor for 320 hours a year, or 8 a week during the school year. Studies show most AA andL kids study 3-4 hours a week, whites about 6 and Asians over 15, on average. Adding a mandatory 8 a week works, Geoffrey Canada has proven this. Any AA kid with this voucher for Kumon would be studying more than the average white kid in America, if they studied just an hour a day on their own by well over double.

    If there aren't tutors available, there is a massive mismanagement of funds going on at SFUSD, run by the far left.

    Now here's my challenge, go to the library at San Bruno Avenue, write down the races of the kids you see spending Saturday studying. Control for income. Go to any City in California and observe this. Go to Fresno. This is a resource that is not used.

    And the main reason people are poor is that the man leaves his family. To me that is lazy, if you love a woman when she's young and sexy and leave when she's heavier and has less time for you and you have children to care for, you are lazy.

    Poor people end up having to work just as hard as rich people, but don't pretend that when choice is in the air, when you have free time and a decision to make on what to do with it, that poor people don't act lazier and make worse decisions and that that isn't a huge part of the achievement gap.

    I spoke with Avalos. He said he doesn't want his kids to study over 5 hours a week, wants them to be well-rounded. This is a successful leader in the Latino community. Mauffas' child didn't finish high school. If this is the way the leaders of the community are behaving/advocating, then what about the single mom working part-time? What about the unemployed or poor but employed? Do you think they're telling their kids study all weekend to get good grades or let's relax and watch TV?

    Studies have shown poor kids watch up to 40 hours a week of TV, on average. That is something you can control. Obama said it, you are never so poor the only decision you can make is to watch TV and not study. Direct quote, and he became President, probably for 8 years, and I'll vote for him next year.

    You will never solve the gap if you deny that poor people are largely to blame. This must be admitted before we can have progress on this issue. I study with my kids over 25 hours a week. Poor people just aren't doing that. Most rich people aren't either. Most Asians are.

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  66. It's true, the one thing missing from the far left take on the achievement gap is that DRASTIC PERSONAL CHANGE is necessary from the low income minorities who are on the lower end of it. Geoffrey Canada recognizes this and the strategy is, we'll be your parents if you have bad parents, we'll study with you on Saturday and after school, we'll do what it takes. The far left in SF just remains silent on the TV and study issues, not just how many hours you study but how focused you are when you are studying, how much you pay attention in class, some kids don't even try their best during tests. There is a decision to be made. Many make short-term decisions. Many adults will get drunk or smoke or do drugs knowing it will shorten their life. Many 12-year olds would rather have more fun now and less income later. These kids aren't stupid, they're making a choice. If you want to solve the gap you have to teach them to put in more work.

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  67. Interesting article on SF Gate that is somewhat related to a number of topics discussed here (article may not be available until tomorrow):
    http://hearst-eedition-20111113-sanfranciscochronicle.ca.newsmemory.com/?token=a99b8ec861c73b50b81bf3c4d38834e9

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  68. Just putting this on the record:

    I asked Kim-Shree Maufas, one of our SFUSD Board members, about the poor state of science teaching at our schools in 2008.

    Her response was: "We have to teach them to read." Any mention of the dire state of science teaching was met with complete disinterest.

    Where is the concern about science teaching on the SFUSD Board?

    Rachel Norton ran on a platform of promoting science teaching, among other things, but I have not seen her come out with any stance that would seriously promote science teacher since she was elected.

    Rachel, Garcia, Kim-Shree, and others, have blocked any discussion about how to address the crisis in science and math teaching in our schools.

    Where is the partnership with the Exploratorium, Dennis Bartels, Bruce Alberts?

    You'd think that we lived in Podunkville, not the Bay Area, who used to be at the forefront of scientic endeavor.

    Now we're at the forefront of greed.

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  69. They're obsessed with the students who care the least but won't criticize their study habits or parents and think it's society's fault they're failing, not their fault. They nevertheless don't want to push habits which would reverse said failure. They think money will solve it and don't care about making good students great 1% as much as they do about making bad students average. They discourage middle school parent conferences for top students and push them for failing students. China pays more attention to the best, we pay more attention to the worst. We're falling behind.

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  70. All students should be treated equally. There should be no honors. It's apartheidd within diversity. It's racist. It's against the spirit of the Occupy Movement!

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  71. "I spoke with Avalos. He said he doesn't want his kids to study over 5 hours a week, wants them to be well-rounded. This is a successful leader in the Latino community. Mauffas' child didn't finish high school." It is those people's choice to prioritize feel-good parenting over achievement orientation. However, to force those attitudes on families who feel differently by working towards the lowest common denominator is a problem. To whoever considers excellence a form of apartheid: In order to initiate change, you need intelligent, creatively thinking, passionate people (of whatever persuasion), and your vision of one-size-fits-all (non-)teaching isn't suited to nurture such skills. Here's a challenge for you: Occupy your own mind!

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  72. That is fine if it is their choice to prioritize feel-good parenting, but don't then say the achievement gap is a result of racism in the system, a system run by nothing but far left union liberals who are obsessed with diversity. Don't tell us we need to do somehting inside the institution to equalize a result of 15 vs. 3 hours. That's insane. You couldn't do anything to help a group of kids studying 2-5 hours to do better than a group studying 15-20 hours without changing the input. Geoffrey Canada knows this and he's black. The achievement gap has never addressed this issue. It assumes if a child studies less it's because they are disadvantaged somehow. They may just be choosing what's easier in the short run and have less pride in academic achievement. They may have worse parenting or feel-good kumbaya parenting. Either way, I don't give a damn what you feel you are entitled to. You're entitled to nothing, you have to earn it, and you have as good a chance as the kids who are earning it. You choose not to earn it.

    I mean suppose you had a mine where you got paid a percentage, and 5 guys were working 11 hour days, bringing in an ounce and a half of gold a day, and 5 guys were talking, meandering and bringing in half a pound a day in about 7 hours. No one would claim that group didn't have the same chance.

    It's true Dan Quayle was born on 3d base and thinks he hit a triple, but it's also true these kids are born on 1st base and think they popped out and then got hit by a pitch and called out. They see unfairness where there is none. They like to play victim but they are only victim of their own sloth.

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  73. I meant an ounce and half vs. half an ounce.

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  74. 11:47 - by your logic, why don't you point at the discrimination of differentiated learning environment provided by special education programs with small class sizes, paras and teachers with special training? What I see in most honors classes is the same teachers, curriculum and resources as the GE classes. My understanding of the best educational models is that they are supposed to educate students to individual educational needs. The honors program works for a large population of students, just as special education works for others. If it is the “TRADITIONAL Honors model of teaching that just does not work for a substantial portion of the population of our schools” why can’t we develop a better program that meets the needs and abilities of the GE population without tearing down other programs that are working?

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  75. Check out the comments section on this article about homogenous education models from parents with children with IEPs:

    http://www.nytimes.com/schoolbook/posts/760-is-inclusion-the-best-approach-for-special-education-students

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