Recently, I had a conversation with a building principal of another district on 8th grade social studies honors. Currently, neither district has an honors program for social studies in eighth grade. I was looking for some feedback on the pros and cons of such a program.
Rob, I think it is interesting that you bring this up. I would like to find out in general...what distinguishes an honors class? and go from there...
As an aside, at the '08 Teaching and Learning celebration I picked up materials on the "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on PBS which gives content to teachers for use in the classroom. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/
Middle School Honors Class
"It depends, says Berneice Brownell, assistant professor of education at Susquehanna University. If the courses are designed with the student in mind and if the student truly needs and wants that extra acceleration in the classroom, then honors classes for middle school kids are a good idea. However, she continues, too often, "parents end up taking the class, not the kids." In other words, the parents are generating the push behind the honors classes, and in many situations, the parents are spending a lot of time helping with the homework."
Also some people believe that honors in middle school is unnecessary and can be used to segregate students in ethnically and culturally diverse schools. They make an argument along the lines of, "Why not have high standards for everyone and offer enrichment to those who want it?"
Thank you for your response. I am not sure of the % of parents who push their children academically and/or athletically but know that it does occur and is something that needs to be addressed. One goals of schools should be to do what is best for the child, not the "transcript", although again, since so much emphasis is placed on "how good a school district is" when looking for a home, I would imagine that number of honors courses sometimes falls into the discussion of what makes a good school (I'm thinking of US News Best High School's in America rankings here). Putting that aside, I do believe that high standards for everyone and enrichment for those who want it is attainable, at a cost. Perhaps we can come up with creative offerings using technology to offset costs.
Speaking from experience, in some private schools, electives are available on almost every level, and in every subject. Electives allow for students to expand knowledge in subject areas that interest them. I don't believe most MS allow for electives but if schools went to a longer day, perhaps students would be able to take courses for enrichment that would allow for expansion of knowledge. Some schools offer after-school programs that allow for this, although the emphasis varies. Sometimes the emphasis is academics. Sometimes the emphasis is athletics. In schools with resources (money, people and support), the offerings can be vast, from science clubs to chess, backgammon and intramural sports, athletics, art and computer design.
So going back to Rob's question about Social Studies Honors programs, in addition to possibly looking at technology to provide an offering, what about offering electives across districts? Distributing costs among districts might allow for more offerings in addition to possibly allowing for more heterogeneous groupings. Do you think districts be open to this? Could we also explore afterschool program run by outside organizations (like universities or museums)? Exposure to college campuses could create learning experiences in and of themselves. What programs are there in place now?
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