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Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Are We Placing Students at the Right Course Level?

Yesterday's snowstorm provided a great opportunity to catch up on a little reading. This article was called to my attention and I found it really interesting: 

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2014/01/programmer_privilege_as_an_asian_male_computer_science_major_everyone_gave.html.

How many of us hear (or make?) statements like "s/he can't <fill in skill/ability/occupation here> because s/he is <fill in race, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, disability, etc. here>?" that assert that an individual is less capable than a potential alternative with the opposite trait(s). This article considers the opposite side of the coin, referencing "the privilege of implicit endorsement." What if you were considered more capable because of your personal profile? 

In keeping with this theme, to what extent do schools rely on stereotypes to place students in courses? Do we put the "bad kids" in certain classes? What about the "dumb" kids? Back in the day that's just the way it was but we've come a very long way since then. At Tuesday night's School Committee meeting there was a great deal of discussion around placing students in the best course level for their unique skills and abilities based on quality criteria, as well as encouraging them  to challenge themselves. If a high school student is doing well but not excelling in mathematics, perhaps the most appropriate level is CP. That's where they have the best chance of being successful without drowning. But if that same student is excelling in English, perhaps an AP course is the right fit. Our schools do not (and will not) put students on an academic track - those days are gone. Supt. Taymore talks constantly about upping the rigor for all students, and I like what I'm hearing from middle school and high school administrators about carefully placing each and every student in the right class at the right level. If you have questions about the right placement for your child, please reach out to the school's guidance department or principal and talk with them about it - when parents and schools are on the same page regarding a child's placement, the student gains not only the right skills, but greater confidence and self-esteem - something we all want for our adults-in-training!