It sounds great in theory: Raise standards—and students will rise to the occasion.
But is that always the case?
That question currently is under debate in Fairfax County, Va., where some parents are challenging the plans of county school officials to phase out many honors courses.
School officials say the move makes sense. They want more students—particularly minority students—to test themselves to the fullest by enrolling in Advanced Placement (AP) classes.
“We’ve found that traditionally underrepresented minorities do not access the most-rigorous track when three tracks are offered,” Peter Noonan, Fairfax County’s assistant superintendent for instructional services, told the Washington Post. “But when two tracks are offered, they do.”
So, in schools where an AP class is offered in a subject, officials plan to discontinue any parallel honors courses.
Not all parents see the decision as that simple. Without that middle ground course offering, opponents say, some students will decide that AP courses are too challenging academically or will demand more work than they’re willing to take on.
For those students, the only alternative remaining will be standard track courses. And some will choose to “dumb down” their education with less-academically challenging classes.
Enough parents are raising concerns that the school board has agreed to review its decision, but it’s unclear whether supporters of honors courses can resist what the Post describes as “a national trend to reduce the number of ‘tracks’ for students.”
Del Stover, Senior Editor