Against Elimination of Advanced Classes at WBSD
West Bend School District has a long history of excellent programming for advanced and honors classes, from early middle school through high school levels. Recently administrators of the WBSD implemented new criteria for advanced classes in 6th-8th grade. This criteria requires kids to have 3 out of 4 very high advanced scores on standardized testing in order to qualify for being in an honors/advanced class. The purpose of this criteria is to shrink advanced class programming significantly. Administrators do not believe they need to look at classroom performance, history of academic achievement, teacher recommendation or parent recommendation. The administrators believe that most advanced learners’ needs can be met by “differentiation in the classroom”- in other words, the teacher is expected to teach to all levels of ability in one classroom, from special needs to kids performing significantly above grade level. The result of this new criteria has meant that 8th graders at Badger who were previously in advanced 7th grade English classes have been eliminated from the 8th grade advanced class (both English/Language Arts and Social Studies)- the numbers have been cut in at least half. Many of the children cut from the class have had A’s and B’s in the previous advanced level class, however did not have high enough standardized test scores on 3 different tests. The new criteria is also being implemented for advanced 6th grade math, advanced 7th grade math and 7th grade advanced English. It is likely to mean a significant drop in the number of kids taking 8th grade algebra and from there, following a path to calculus by the end of high school. It is likely to mean that fewer kids will be prepared for the Honors and AP level classes at the high school. In addition, administrators have deleted the offerings of Honors English 9 and Pre-AP US History offered to advanced learners in 8th grade, which allowed kids to receive high school credit in middle school. This was done without school board approval, which is required per School Board policy 330.1. A bit of the history of the development of these classes is explained here: https://walker.wi.gov/press-releases/transforming-...
We have already seen cuts to advanced programming in the district in previous years. Advanced 5th and 6th grade English/Language Arts and advanced 5th grade math no longer exist. There is no longer an Honors Geometry class at the High School. These cuts have not been about funding, but rather are an ideological change. This new criteria takes these eliminations several steps further. While many teachers and parents agree that having some kind of criteria for placement is a necessary step, we do not agree with the criteria that has been chosen and the attempt to drastically cut advanced programming. Parents and kids have been meeting with administrators, and speaking at board meetings however the administrators who designed this new criteria appear to be set with implementing it fully (with the exception of looking at a few individual cases). There is a work session planned with the West Bend School Board and the new superintendent, Don Kirkegaard on July 17 at 5:30 and advanced programming looks to be part of the agenda later in the evening. Mr Kirkegaard begins his new job the week of July 9.
We are petitioning to ask that Mr Kirkegaard and the school board reverse the implementation of this new standardized test based criteria for the 2018-19 school year. We recognize new criteria may need to be chosen but ask that this be delayed and looked at during the 2018-19 school year while utilizing the Mr Kirkegaard’s input, as well as the voices of advanced literacy and math teachers at each level. We ask that the new criteria include classroom performance, academic achievement and teacher and parent recommendation with standardized testing being only a piece of the criteria. Any significant shift in programming such as being done currently has always required extensive auditing, study, transparent discussion and board and teacher involvement prior to implementation. We ask that we as a district do NOT go further in a direction of full differentiation in the classroom and consider that advanced learners benefit from being in a more homogenous classrooms for math and English/Language Arts classes.
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