Thursday, January 15, 2015


Our kids are going to high school. "Can you believe it?" we say to one another, shaking our heads. We read the forms from school, talk about scheduling and attend orientation meetings. We try to make sense of it all. We know it will be a big change (for us!) and for our children. We pay attention, perhaps even take notes.

And we talk amongst ourselves.

First impressions of the high school are, overall, positive. The only thing I thought was unnecessary was the science teacher, who kept saying over and over again, "If they are not exceptional they shouldn't even try the class." Exceptional is a rather hard start to live up to. If you start from there, where can you go, I wonder?

This discussion started yesterday on Facebook and the thread ultimately ran to fifty-two comments. If I could I'd print the entire discussion here, because it was that good. But that would be too long for a blog post, and I haven't asked permission. It's clear that Facebook is the neighborhood coffee klatch of old, and some big ideas are being shared.

What did other people think of this Science teacher's presentation?

Totally agree. The GT Bio teacher basically was telling the kids not to take her class.

Various people chimed in. Some said, my child did take that class, it is tough, but the teachers work with you and you can get after school help. Another remarked that the teacher in question was an excellent teacher. All who had experience with the class agreed that it was a lot of work. But overall there was an underlying concern about pushing kids to take GT and AP classes, and the prevailing attitude that only those students were worth taking seriously.

In some schools parents push to get their children into all GT's and AP's at the high school level, in other schools well-meaning counseling coach students away from music, drama, dance, and other subjects in favor of testable, weighted subjects that they think are better for college applications. The school system itself brags about how many students are enrolled in AP classes.

As parents we agreed that our kids need more than high pressure academics. They need balance. One mom said, "I know young people who are excelling in excellent colleges RIGHT NOW who never took an AP or GT class in highschool. THIS IS A TRUE STORY."

So, we don't want to push. And yet, there's something that bothers us, deep down, when we hear childen sorted out like this:

The teacher's talk to the parents translated to me as, "I only teach to the exceptional kids, if yours are less than that take Earth Science, that is a good class for less than exceptional kids."

It's a fine line, isn't it? Like Lake Woebgon, in Howard County we want to believe that all our children are above average. But education should be about meeting the actual needs of the students. We should not be getting bogged down in a head game for adults. I'd like to hit a reset button on this one.


Photo credit: Chris Palestrant


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