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After significant review of student outcomes District 202 Superintendent Witherspoon recommended on Nov. 8 restructuring the freshman year at Evanston Township High School.
ETHS reviewed best practices and research from high schools that have made progress in reducing the racial predictability of academic achievement.
By restructuring the freshman year, ETHS is striving to provide our most rigorous curriculum to as many students as possible so that we produce graduates who will be prepared to continue in higher education and careers in the world that awaits them. One important part of the proposal is the “Earned Honors Credit” model which would be implemented in freshman classes.
Rationale for a new “Earned Honors Credit” Model
Harvard professor Tony Wagner (2009) argues that even the schools that do the very best on standardized tests are doing a disservice to our students because they are not also preparing students for a collaborative, diverse world. He writes, “Work, learning, and citizenship in the 21st century demand that we all know how to think – to reason, analyze, with evidence, problem-solve – and to communicate effectively” (xxiii). Our current program for 1 Humanities will be improved to fully respond to these challenges that face the 21st-century learner. In these systems both IB certificates and AP credit are determined by what students know and are able to do (Byrd, 2007).
Students in Freshman Humanities will have the opportunity to earn honors credit through class work. Requiring students to earn honors credit, through multiple assessments, is in alignment with research and data and will increase academic achievement for all students. Teachers will focus their instruction on the skills necessary for students to earn honors credit. Assessments will be used to determine both core competencies and honors credit. By having students earn honors credit, we will recognize the work that they do in our classrooms to meet the highest standards.
Models for Earned Credit
The framework used for students to earn honors credit is based on the International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement models. In IB schools, students who participate in IB courses are assessed “internally” at the classroom level. External evaluators are used to score specific exams. Students who enroll in Ap coruses take externally graded AP exams. Students earning a “3” or higher (on a 1-5 scale) may be given college credit. In these systems both IB certificates and AP credit are determined by what students know and are able to do (Byrd, 2007).
New Model for “Earned Honors Credit”
Our new model proposes that honors credit should place value on quality work. Similar to the models above, students in Humanities will earn honors credit through their performance on a specific set of assessments. ETHS teachers will utilize a combination of content-specific assessments, writing assessments and semester exams as our honors credit benchmarks.
Requiring students to earn honors credit through multiple assessments will increase the academic achievement of students who do honors level work.
Requiring students to earn honors credit through multiple assessments will focus instruction on the skills necessary for students to earn honors credit.
Vertically aligning assessments with AP skills and instruction to develop those skills will lead students to a clear pathway to AP courses as upperclassmen.
Requiring all students to take these rigorous assessments will allow all students to have the opportunity to earn honors credit and strive to achieve at the highest level.
Vertically aligning the curriculum with the skills and expectations of AP, preparing more students to take AP classes at ETHS. AP is equated with rigor for a variety of reasons: “Standards and expectations are high and known to all students; Assessments are comprehensive and well aligned to standards; Focus is both on content and critical thinking” (Byrd, 2007).
More information and citations can be found at http://www.eths.k12.il.us/about_eths/curriculum_and_instruction/common_core_standards.aspx.