Archive for Thursday, April 15, 2004

Honorable mention

EHS phasing in honors classes; frosh English first

April 15, 2004

Beginning this fall, Eudora High School freshmen can take honors English classes with the opportunity to earn an "A" worth 5 points on a weighted GPA scale. After the inaugural year, students' opportunities will encompass a variety of subjects ranging from college-level government to Chemistry II.
The USD 491 Board of Education approved a proposal for honors classes and a weighted grading system during its April 8 meeting.
"As a Board, we're talking about raising expectations, and this is implementing that," Board member Joe Pyle said.
All students are eligible to enroll, but admission to honors classes will be based on GPA and teachers' recommendations, said Principal Dale Sample. The program could be a segue into offering advanced placement classes.
"It gives then an opportunity to excel," Sample said.
Before presenting the idea to the Board, Sample surveyed more than 30 area high schools, all of which offered honors or advance placement courses. He said communities supported the classes because they included more reading, writing, analysis and higher-level thinking skills than traditional classes while preparing students for college entrance exams.
However, Sample said communities worried classes tracked students and lowered expectations in traditional classrooms.
Pyle said he worried instructors teaching honors classes would feel pressured to inflate students' grades because of their honors status. Sample didn't see that being a problem.
"We want to raise expectations," he said. "And we want those kids to realize we want increased expectations."
As for a weighted grading scale, Sample said none of the other schools in the Frontier League offered it, largely because they were under the impression colleges and universities wouldn't accept weighted grades. Sample said many schools used the 4.0 scale for admissions, but weighted averages factored in to students' scholarship chances.
Sample said communities were also concerned about which classes would be weighted and the fact not all students were in classes where they had the opportunity to earn 5 points for their "A."
However, a weighted GPA not only encouraged students to undertake a more rigorous curriculum, Sample said, but it also made determining class honors easier. The school would also straighten out the honor roll system, which under the current system treats a "B+" as an "A-," for example. That became critical when failing students were granted a "D-," a passing grade.
Sample said students enrolling in the freshman honors English class could likely expect some sort of summer reading program as well as more writing and in-depth reading throughout the school year.
In fall 2005, the school anticipates offering a sophomore honors English class, followed in fall 2006 by honors junior English, American history, second-level chemistry, physics and trigonometry. In fall 2007, the school would add college-level English and government, as well as senior-level math to its list of honors courses.

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