Public Schools’ Removal Of Advanced Courses Cultivates Mediocrity In The Name Of Equity

schools unlevelling
credit: Pixabay

The public school system is at it again, this time mobilizing an attack on advanced placement and honors courses. In some circles, they call these “gifted” classes.

In essence, they’re meant for students who are ahead of their classmates, and give them an additional challenge.

In the name of “equity,” there’s a new trend of dismantling these courses – what teachers’ unions and special interest groups view as a toxic system based on, you know… performance.

Of note, most of these decisions seem to happen in blue states, with the most recent being Rhode Island. But what should surprise the Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) consultants is that most parents, including those who identify as Democrats, are not for this extreme education agenda.

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The New Initiative: ‘Unlevelling’

Since Critical Race Theory (CRT), gender ideology, and DEI are not getting the reaction schools were hoping for, they’ve now repackaged their harmful agenda with a new title: unlevelling.

Unlevelling is when all students, regardless of academic abilities or special needs, are put in the same classes. No more standing out, Little Ricky. 

Think about that for a second. In order to spare some feelings, students who show an aptitude for mathematics, science, English, and history will be punished. 

What are the second level effects of this? Third level? Do we really not want to help out today’s advanced students who will be building tomorrow’s bridges and manning the operating room? 

For the teachers out there, I can’t imagine this is helpful or makes your job easier. The skilled students will lose engagement because the coursework will be too easy. The students who need extra assistance will lose engagement because the course speed is too fast.

So I guess we are now advocating for a lose-lose educational landscape where nobody gets a trophy, and everybody feels just a bit worse than before.

2022: Another ‘Year of the Parent’

Parents in Rhode Island are livid about these canceled honors classes at Barrington Public Schools. Once rated one of the state’s best schools, it has dropped 119 spots in official rankings since it instituted unleveling in 2020.

One parent who is a dentist and whose son aims to follow in his footsteps brilliantly stated at a school board meeting:

“If you guys really believe in [equity], then pick an average or below average dentist and see what you get.”

I wouldn’t say I like going to the dentist, but you better believe I want the best dentist I can find.

On the other side, there’s Katie Novak, a consultant for the unleveling initiative at the school:

“Too many individuals and schools support oppressive and ableist structures where access to advanced coursework is a privilege that students have to earn.”

First of all, as a lover of the written word, I have to say when I read or hear words and phrases like ‘ableist structure,’ my brain starts to melt out of my ears. Second, we no longer want to encourage our youth to understand the concept of achieving what you earn?

This is the reverse of what my generation went through, where we all received a trophy regardless of abilities. Now nobody gets a trophy regardless of their abilities.

Ms. Novak goes on to say:

“All students deserve opportunities to access grade-level instruction and become expert learners and this is not possible when we continue to track students in different levels based on antiquated models of school success.”

That’s a lot of nonsense to just state what she means; she wants to get rid of standardized testing and standards in general.

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Why Honors Classes Matter

When I went through high school, I was lucky enough to participate in some Advanced Placement courses. Many schools have both Honors courses and Advanced Placement. To understand why these classes are essential, you first need to understand the difference.

Advanced Placement courses allow students to take a separate test at the end of the course. If they score high enough, they earn college credit for the class. So essentially, as a high school student, you can receive credits in, say, English Composition for both your high school and college degrees.

Honors courses are an intermediary between the Advanced Placement courses and regular classes. Therefore, a student’s A or B grade in Honors courses is worth more in the overall GPA than an A or B in regular courses.

This distinction can mean the differences between college admission, scholarships, or other higher education opportunities for students who show aptitudes in various subjects. 

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Besides the fact that parents in both political parties are fighting back, some state legislatures are also trying to preserve access to advanced courses. 

When Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia was running for office, he promised his constituents he would remove the Virginia Mathematics Pathways Initiative (VMPI). It was one of his priorities upon swearing-in. This initiative was meant to eliminate advanced math courses before the 11th grade. 

Before the 11th grade. That means Virginia students wouldn’t have access to advanced calculus, statistics, algebra, etc. until they are two years from college. Two years from adulthood. That is two years too late to be cultivating and nurture students who have natural abilities in mathematics.

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A Threat to National Security

It’s easy to focus solely on military actions and climate change as the most significant threats to our national security. Especially when Congress approves a whopping $40 billion to Ukraine and the Biden administration continues to push green energy over oil production.

However, I would argue the greatest threat to our national security is the ‘dumbing down’ of our country. China outperforms the United States and every other country in every subject. Why is that?

China focuses on foundational learning with strict requirements and adherence to accuracy over creativity. Please don’t mistake me; I do not want us to be like China. However, I want us to get back to promoting excellence, celebrating natural talent and hard work, and raising the bar instead of lowering it.

If you still aren’t convinced, let me reframe the situation. What if we no longer encouraged students who have an aptitude for art, music, or dance?

What if all students had to be in the same art courses, music courses, or dance courses regardless of skill? I would argue we would have less beauty in the world and more stick figure drawings and bad dance moves.

If we wouldn’t want it for the arts, why would we want this for the academics?


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USAF Retired, Bronze Star recipient, outspoken veteran advocate. Hot mess mom to two monsters and wife to equal parts... More about Kathleen J. Anderson

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