Heterogeneous grouping at could be under way soon, Principal Don Lilley said.
The plan is to offer honors-level science and social studies courses to all incoming ninth-graders, he said. The principal is working on a letter that will be sent to parents soon providing all the details.
"When the letter comes out, it's going to say this is what we're going to do,” Lilley said.
The principal said the intent of the change is to close the achievement gap and better prepare students for higher-level coursework in their junior year.
“With all the different pathways that students have when they become 11th graders at Annapolis High School, we want to make sure they’re prepared,” Lilley said. “If we're not challenging the kids as 9th graders, as they're coming in, then it's just going to be more difficult for them later on.”
Lilley said he has confidence his teachers are ready to adapt to the new classroom composition, where they’ll be teaching students with a diverse range of abilities.
“I think my teachers are prepared for dealing with a different structure, and how to teach students in a different style, on different levels," he said. "They've probably been (prepared) for the past four years.”
Heterogeneous grouping was originally proposed to start with this school year, but due to negative reactions from some parents, Lilley delayed the start of it so that it could be studied over the summer.
A study group assembled by the Annapolis Education Commission, comprised of teachers, parents and students, . They said heterogeneous grouping had yet to be proven effective in classrooms and asked for further time to study it.
“We need to proceed slowly with HG and provide local proof and validation of claims,” according to their recommendation.
The group concluded that HG should be tested in a small-scale to confirm that it can enhance performance of those who need it, while not holding back those at the top of the class.
After studying the results of HG in various school systems across the country, the group found success stories mixed with failures. In some areas it worked, while in others, it caused such troubles that implementation was stopped midway through a year, according to their documentation.
“Those who point to one study or another claiming that HG will definitely work are selectively choosing the data,” commission Chairman Jeff Macris said.
Before implementing heterogeneous grouping, the group said a new discipline plan needed to be developed to keep order, and teachers needed more hands-on time with the new classroom composition. They also recommended expanding existing academic programs before starting the new setup.
However, after hearing the AEC’s presentation in September, the school board took no action, and is unlikely to take any official stance on heterogeneous grouping in the future.
Board member Deborah Ritchie indicated that it wasn’t for the board to decide. However, she said she thought it was a good idea, because people learn better together.
Board President Patricia Nalley said she believed heterogeneous grouping could work, based on her experience seeing similar classroom environments in elementary school.