Written by Gina Coco, Steering Committee Chair
In 2013 the Steering Committee made a decision to eliminate the dual track course offerings that included a standard and an “Honors” course for English in grades 9, 10 and 11 and for social studies in grades 9 and 10. As intended when this decision was made in 2013, the current Steering Committee has been monitoring, researching and evaluating the impact of this change. As a result, the Steering Committee is exploring a proposal to relabel certain core courses as “Honors” and considering the potential weighting of grades earned in these courses on a 4.5-point scale (as a note, the district would have to be able to implement this policy in their system before it could be finalized, and this is still uncertain at this time). Currently, there are no “Honors” courses at D’Evelyn, and only AP courses are weighted on a 5.0-point scale. In order to keep our community informed, Mr. Griffin will present on this issue at the Accountability Committee meeting on May 7th at 5:30 pm. If this subject is of interest to you, please plan to attend.
The decision to eliminate the “Honors” track is outlined in this 2013 document and was based on several factors. Significant to the current proposal are the following key points. The 2013 committee found marginal differences between the 2013 “Honors” and standard courses. Further, the committee concluded that the standard courses for English, social studies, science and foreign language “are at a level equivalent to “Honors” in a contemporary secondary school setting.”
Student enrollment and retention is one metric used to assess the impact of this policy. In determining whether or not the 2013 decision played a role in declining enrollment and retention, the Steering Committee looked at student and parent exit surveys. Unfortunately, we have observed an undesirable impact on our students as a result of this change. We also hear students express that their GPA does not accurately reflect the effort and content mastery required to complete the rigorous academic courses at D’Evelyn. Student post-graduate outcomes, student morale, and an appropriate representation of D’Evelyn coursework on student transcripts are all important to the Steering Committee. In order to address these pertinent issues, we researched the approach of other like-minded schools.
We contacted several Colorado schools with a similar rigorous curriculum and found that each of them labeled most of their core courses as “Honors”. These schools included The Vanguard School, Ridgeview Classical, Liberty Commons, and Goldenview Classical. They shared that, like at D’Evelyn, their core curriculum demanded far more of students than the neighborhood school courses. They instituted the Honors label and weighting for those courses (many had done so in the last few years) to properly communicate to colleges the rigor of their courses and to reward their students for the work they were completing. These schools informed us that in response to introducing an Honors label and weighted grades, college admissions counselors were positively receptive; students felt rewarded for the work they were doing, enhancing their academic motivation; and parents were supportive.
The current proposal defines “Honors” courses as academic core courses taught above grade level in depth, scope of content and/or pace of presentation. As such, English, Science and Social Studies courses would be labeled “Honors”. There would not be a dual track, rather courses would be designated as “Honors” when they meet the above definition in comparison with standard level core academic courses taught in neighborhood schools.
The Steering Committee is committed to fully vetting the proposal for the following reasons:
The Steering Committee is the governing board of the school and establishes policies designed to maintain and enhance its liberal arts philosophy. The Steering Committee appoints Directors to the Board of the D'Evelyn Education Foundation.