MHS shares changes to Honors English

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MHS teachers Kris Cody-Johnson, Elizabeth Miller, Laura Russella and Michelle Kruse shared options for the Honors English program for freshmen starting in 2018-19 with the Board of Education at its regular meting on Monday, May 14.

They noted a committee was held to determine what other high schools are doing and research might be possible. A goal was to make sure the program wasn't just asking students to do extra work.

Another goal is to make sure Honors English is accessible to all students. Students should find ways to broaden their own learning with the guidance of students. Students would have a few weeks to determine whether they want to commit to taking English for honors.

Students will need to perform at a B level or higher to be eligible for honors.

"We want to make sure students aren't focusing on getting an 'H' on their transcript rather than getting the skills to truly succeed in the class,'' Russella said.

The team acknowledged there will be challenges, especially now that students with various levels of interest and knowledge take English together. However, it was also noted that some students currently taking Honors English admit to being bored or not working hard, while others who had no idea they could take the course show real aptitude for the subject.

"We want to make sure there is a pathway or on-ramp for all students to have success,'' Russella said.

Board members did have concern that students currently taking Honors English will feel like the change is a loss for them.

Cody-Johnson noted research shows this change won't harm the top MHS students, but it will help others step up and improve. She also noted English teachers are asking for patience as MHS learns how to use resources, such as ASR, better.

Cody-Johnson also provided a history of the course. She said the program originally allowed 48 students to take Honors English based on a test. A few years ago it was changed to include teacher recommendations and, most recently, Advanced Placement tests were also included in the evaluation.

"We want English 9 to be inclusive, but what we really want is for students to learn to learn,'' she said. "Don't learn because your parents want you to sign up for Honors English, or you want it on your resume or because your friends do it.''

MHS principal Steve Plank noted physics and Honors English are the final two courses at MHS that are segregated.
 
The team noted this process has taken 3-4 years. Cody-Johnson expects honors numbers to drop next year because students think it may mean more work. Superintendent George Mavroulis asked for a mid-year report in 2018-19 and recommendations about what should be tweaked. He also expects other high schools to visit MHS to learn about what he called a cutting-edge program.