Parents Voice Concerns at Meeting on Annapolis High Changes
AHS officials present plan for heterogeneous mixing of all freshmen and plans to offer a school-wide International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme and Advanced Placement classes.
If something is not broken, then why fix it? That was the sentiment echoed at Annapolis High School (AHS) Wednesday night as parents questioned instructional changes slated for this fall.
A new plan will heterogeneously open freshman honors classes (except math) to all students instead of grouping students by ability. This fall, AHS will offer a school-wide International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme (MYP), as well as Advanced Placement (AP) classes and the IB Diploma Programme. A ninth grade Parent Advisory Group will form, as well.
At the meeting, Regional Assistant Superintendent Christopher Truffer lauded the staff and curriculum at the school, citing how Annapolis High School rated higher on the DC area list than the other 11 county high schools in the 2010 The Washington Post AP Challenge Index.
The rating is found by dividing the number of AP, IB or other college-level tests a school gave in 2010 by the number of graduating seniors—but doesn't actually measure quality.
"While not a measure of the overall quality of the school, the rating can reveal the level of a high school’s commitment to preparing average students for college," according to the article.
Parents questioned why improvements were needed if things were running so smoothly at AHS.
“Your role is to look through the lens of what’s best for your child,” Truffer said. “My role is what’s best for every child.”
AHS Principal Donald Lilley equated the situation to Charles Darwin’s philosophy that a species must adapt to its environment to survive.
“We need to change in order to serve all of our students’ needs in a global society,” he said.
The idea for the instructional change stems from an IB Access Grant the
school received two years ago for ninth and 10th grade, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant includes a stipend for the selected teachers and funding for after-school training and peer coaching.
Kristina Korona, IB MYP coordinator, said this training will naturally extend to the classroom setting.
“As the year went on, it seemed like the next logical step,” Korona said.
Social studies teachers Chris Hinsvark and Lindsay Laupp performed a trial run of heterogeneous grouping in their classrooms. Both cited success stories from that experience and presented data collected during an eight-week period.
“I think this class forced us to teach to the top,” Laupp said. “Students want to be just as successful as their peers.”
Hinsvark noted an improvement in his classes as well, citing homework and participation examples. The largest difference, he said, was in social interaction.
“When we analyze news, it helps to have multiple perspectives in the class with diverse reactions,” Hinsvark said.
Kim Jakovics, AHS social studies department chairman, said there are teenagers who deserve the opportunity that honors classes offer.
Lilley said mixing classes teachers and staff can push the students do more.
“We do not believe all of our students at AHS are achieving their potential—even those at the top,” Lilley said.
There were so many questions during the presentation that parents were asked to write them down to submit to a moderator. Some questions were answered at the meeting, and officials said others will be addressed later on the school's website.
One question concerned what would happen to average students who might struggle to keep up with the workload involved in honors classes. Students will be offered many options for support, as well as "tiered assignments."
Lilley said support programs, such as AVID, and seminar courses will help those teens. Other options include the Ninth Grade Academy, PBIS, Summer Bridge, mentoring, Homework Harbor, Panther Cafe, Twilight School and help days, he said.
One parent said she was concerned what would happen to current honor students.
“For the standard kid, this is an awesome opportunity,” said Stacey Corse. “But I’m afraid that they are not going to raise the bar.”
Another parent said she felt she was left out of the decision-making process.
“I was surprised about the lack of information on their part,” said Sarah Williamson. “But they are trying now.”
Korona said the announcement was delayed because they were awaiting decisions from central office and content collaborations.
“I wish it could have been earlier to get more parent involvement,” she said.
Another meeting is slated for June 8 from 6 to 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium. Truffer said no final decision has been made on this proposal.
More information can be found on the school’s website.