How can we keep advanced courses?
The proposed elimination of the last few advanced/accelerated classes at Glencoe and Century was just the last straw--parents were already unhappy that the number of those options was declining over the past few years. How can we get all the advanced/accelerated classes back that we used to have and will you try to take them away again next year? What will the process look like from here?
This sentiment has been heard and is understood by District and school administration. Sometimes, regardless of what research says is a best practice or what philosophically or theoretically may be the preferable path, you simply must acknowledge and appreciate the realities that are in front of you. That is where we have found ourselves with this issue. Our plan for the 2016-17 school year is fourfold:
Offer the advanced/accelerated courses that were either printed in the course catalog as options for the 2016-17 school year (Century) or that have been most recently offered (Glencoe).*
Reinstate/add the opportunity for students to earn “honors” in “regular” courses. These options will be developed consistently with an appropriate level of rigor to warrant the “H” (please see additional information in subsequent questions/answers).
Research, study, and discuss how best to serve the needs of all learners in our schools moving forward. Analyze data from Hilhi and Liberty, our high schools that do not have advanced/accelerated classes, as one way to gain additional insight.
Continue to dialogue with students, teachers, and parents about their classroom experience and how to improve it.
We have no plans to make dramatic changes in course offerings again next year. Any changes implemented in the future would only come as a result of a comprehensive process that involves and informs all stakeholders and is designed to best meet the needs of students.
*Note that Glencoe is also adding AP European History as a new class aimed at sophomores.
Why don't Hilhi/Liberty offer accelerated/advanced classes?
We believe all students deserve rigorous learning opportunities, and we believe all students can graduate ready for college, whether or not they make the choice to enroll in a post-secondary education program. Our high schools have taken similar approaches in supporting students to challenge themselves and succeed in high-level coursework.
However, our high schools have differed in some ways in their approaches to course sequencing. Some schools have offered courses called “advanced” and “accelerated,” while others have embedded “honors options” and other differentiated opportunities within standard course offerings. Each approach has pros and cons associated with it. Common to each is the end goal: to prepare students to enroll and succeed in the highest level course offerings available, especially for juniors and seniors.
We are working together across schools to see which approaches yield the best results in terms of the numbers of students taking AP, IB, Dual Credit and CTE courses, as well as the success rate of those students. This work requires a lot of collaboration, planning, and teamwork from teachers, school leaders, parents, students, and the community and will continue into the future.
Hilhi does offer International Baccalaureate courses and Liberty does offer Advanced Placement courses for those students seeking more challenging curriculum.
How do "honors options" work?
In schools without advanced or accelerated courses, the “honors options” approach has been an effective way to challenge advanced learners. In a mixed-ability level classroom, students have the option within each unit to choose the “degree of difficulty” of their experience. All students will master the basic standards, but those who choose the honors option will often be challenged to apply their learning in extraordinary ways, engage in projects that extend their learning, and/or be assessed in a more rigorous way to demonstrate a higher level of proficiency based on the standards for the unit.
One of the main reasons previous honors options (“H” on the transcript) were phased out is because of a lack of consistency from class to class on what constituted sufficient evidence that honors-level work was completed. In one class it may have meant completing one additional project, whereas in another it may have meant completing assessments with a more rigorous Depth of Knowledge every time.
As we look to provide the opportunity for advanced students to challenge themselves even in “regular” courses, we will work to provide alignment and consistency of practice in determining the level of work that constitutes honors.
Are honors options transcripted?
Yes. The student who opts into the required number of honors activities during a given semester would be awarded an “H” on their transcript for that course.
How do honors options impact diplomas?
Honors options may be available within certain high school courses for completing enough assignments/assessments of an appropriate level of rigor. Students who earn a Chancellor’s Diploma and maintain above a 3.75 unweighted GPA will be recognized as Honors Graduates. Please see Board Policy IKF: Graduation Requirements for additional information.
What if students choose not to challenge themselves?
We have discovered, and research supports it, that giving students choice in their work and assignments allows them to challenge themselves and be more in charge of their learning and, in fact, students self-select advanced options in a majority of cases. In schools with honors options, students self-select the honors options based on their beliefs about their own academic ability. One of the promising outcomes of the honors options within a heterogeneous learning environment is that students develop a sense of self-efficacy when they succeed in meeting the challenge. This is not only a benefit to the already identified TAG and advanced learners within the course, but is also a benefit to the student who has not yet discovered their abilities to achieve at the highest level. That said, teachers acknowledge the need to coach students into challenging themselves and supporting them into meeting those challenges. And, by partnering with parents who know their students best, we can work as a team to challenge our students.
What is the difference between AP, IB and dual credit courses?
Each of these courses has a common element of providing college-level coursework. Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses provide specific, prescribed curriculum that has been predetermined to be at a college level of rigor that, unlike “advanced” or “accelerated” is recognized nationally and internationally. Both prepare students for college and offer an opportunity to take a final test that, if a student performs at a high enough level, can provide them with college credits.
Dual credit courses are high school courses taught by District staff members that have been developed and/or vetted with local higher education partners (PCC, Portland State University, Western Oregon University, etc.) to ensure alignment with college-level coursework. In some cases, the teachers themselves need to be “approved” by the college in order for the college to award credit; in other cases, the teachers need to teach to the approved syllabus and administer the approved assessments. Students who take these courses and do well in them (C or better) will be awarded both high school and college credits. Note that not all colleges will accept credits awarded in this manner (e.g. colleges outside of Oregon).
The District offers these opportunities to students because our goal is to prepare students for their next step after high school. Many students know they want to go on to college after graduating high school. Some don’t believe they want to go to college, but decide later that they do. Some students simply love to be challenged academically. Providing these courses is a good way to prepare students for college. Also, research shows that students who already have college credit before graduating high school are more likely to enroll in college.
The District does not receive any financial incentives for offering more AP/IB or dual credit courses. We provide them as a measure of responsibility and because they are requested by students and parents.