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Students Speak About Mixed Honors Classes

At Wednesday night's board meeting, middle school students voiced their opinions about how challenged they feel in some of their honors-level classes.

Some middle school students have strong opinions about how their classes are being taught this year. The students told school board members Wednesday that changing their honors-level classes has increased cheating and lowered the challenge of their coursework.

For months, parents from middle schools across the county have used the public testimony portion of school board meetings to voice concerns over heterogeneous grouping, .

has a plan in place to begin using in the fall. And there have been reports of the same type of grouping being used at middle schools across the county.

On Wednesday, parents and students from and were again in attendance, armed with detailed testimonies about their experiences with the grouping process.

Three eighth graders said that they have received straight A’s since the move to heterogeneous grouping, but don't feel like they "earned" the grades.

“I am rewarded for my grades, but I have not actually earned them, considering that no hard work is actually required,” said one Central Middle School student.

Another Central student said she doesn’t feel challenged in the classrooms, and has observed more cheating since the classes were mixed with other students.

“In the last two quarters of the year, I have observed more cheating than in my sixth and seventh grade years combined,” she said. “Some days the teacher will spend days of instructing the same material because of lower-level comprehension, and we will not have time to work and apply it.”

Central Middle School Principal Millie Beall said the reports at Wednesday's meeting were the first she has heard of the increased cheating.

"I haven’t gotten any reports from cheating in classrooms. I’ve talked with the teachers and they have not detected it but they’ll put their ears up and have it on the radar," she said.

The Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) held an informational meeting regarding the grouping of students this month. Fresh from hearing from parents during that meeting, CAC Chairman LaToya Staten advised the board on Wednesday that county schools should move forward slowly with integrating heterogeneous grouping, calling the results mixed.

Staten said students of lower socioeconomic standings should be pushed towards more rigorous learning. In discussions with parents, Staten said some believed these students would be disruptive in the classrooms. But she believes they must be challenged in order to be engaged.

“This is something that has been avoided in discussions about heterogeneous groupings, but it’s there, and it’s not going away,” she said.

The testimonies matched the fears parents have expressed during the last six months—that the academic bar would be raised for lower-performing students but lowered for higher-performing students.

Parents like Patricia Meinhold urged the school board to take action on the matter, and keep the line of communication open.

The board has not formalized any policy relating to heterogeneous grouping. Some, including board president Patricia Nalley, have made statements during and after meetings that they are in support of it. However, they have said it was up to principals and teachers to make those decisions, not the board.

a process they called leveling, but others say resembles heterogeneous grouping. During that panel, board members spoke in favor of the grouping process.

Edgewater-Davidsonville Patch Editor Jonathan Moynihan contributed to this story.

Suzanne January 20, 2012 at 09:56 PM
I was not able to attend the meeting, but did watch it after the fact on Verizon's Public Programming station. It is so hard to believe that after all of the testimonies that have taken place at all of the board meetings that the various schools continue to move forward with heterogeneous grouping/leveling. This is more than a "schedule change", it is a total overhaul from the way teachers were teaching and students were learning. That term totally dismisses the impact this change will continue to have on our children. That fact that children are talking out about not having enough challenging work to truly earn their grades is something to stop and listen to. This idea of leveling and grouping is the biggest band-aid of them all for standard and lower level learners.
Suzanne January 20, 2012 at 09:56 PM
What we are doing is falsifying the actual data - so true results of this will not be seen until the band-aid is RIPPED off when they get to either a high school that has the foresight NOT to "level" their classes, or if/when they arrive at college (because that is the goal after all, isn't it?) and find out that school and life is actually a lot harder than what they were experiencing - you actually have to work hard to earn those good grades, future employers won't give you a second chance, you don't get to "redo" your college exams until you get the grade you want, oh, and if you want that job you can't hand in your resume late! What in the world are we preparing those kids for? It doesn't sound like success to me, it just sounds like placating a situation - and all the while dismissing a whole other group of individuals who COULD soar much higher than they being given the opportunity to.
Suzanne January 20, 2012 at 09:57 PM
And don’t even get me started on referrals – when the people in charge of handing out the referrals are told by the people that employ them that they need to meet a goal of fewer referrals, of course it’s possible, it’s almost guaranteed, but are the problems really gone or are the poor behavior issues now just being tolerated in the classrooms so that everyone in the class is subject to it? During American Education Week I personally witnessed a disruptive student attempting to cheat off of another student. So, where do we go from here? It seems that lawsuits and formal complaints get the attention and action... Who do we write to that can make the Board of Ed listen, and actually put a stop to all of this?
Tony January 22, 2012 at 12:24 AM
My children's tuition is hard to swallow come payment time, but well worth the expense when I see how some public school administrators consider this good education. Weren't multiple levels created in the past to taylor subject matter to various levels of learning ability? Why are the dismantling that structure? It worked. Just another round about way to dummy down everyone and make the slow ones feel good about their deficiencies.
Thanks September 14, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Hello, Annapolis, Crofton, and Central Middle School. What was the end of the story? Does leveling work? Were the objections of kids, teachers, and parents assuaged or heeded? What steps would you take if you were to rewind the whole time period and do it right, from the perspective of public relations and the best interests of children?

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