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I read with interest my friend Mike Frye’s letter in last Wednesday’s Pioneer News. Mike asks some interesting questions and exhorts people to replicate what Mt. Washington Middle does regarding their curriculum and I believe I need to clear up a couple of things.
The Discovery School program is not and should not be a program for everyone; it is a program for students who have exceptional gifts in the areas of Math and Science and will be limited to 36 students (out approximately 1,000) per grade level. We owe it to every student to try to provide programs tailored to their needs. The vast majority of us – despite our many gifts – fit in the academic range of the regular school program (which is a great, rigorous, developmentally appropriate program that will prepare them for the next level). What people often fail to understand is that we are dealing with human beings and treating everyone the same is not the same at treating everyone fairly. A student with severe intellectual disabilities should not be expected to learn at the same rate as the “normal” student and it would be unfair to hold him accountable to that pace. In exactly the same way, students with exceptional intellectual abilities should be expected and pushed to learn more and at a faster rate; to expect less is unfair to that child. That is the reason for a special program.
As for the Pre-AP program at MWMS, for the students in that program it will mostly likely be a great thing (this is its first year, so time will tell). I applaud the MWMS SBDM Council and Principal Allen for making it happen. I am sure they have attended to the equity issue, so that the program doesn’t become one for “haves” while the “have-nots” are relegated to a lesser level of learning and expectation. If parents in other schools desire to learn about the Pre-AP program or see it implemented in our other five middle schools, the principal or the SBDM council members of those schools are the ones to call because they are the ones that make those decisions – not the superintendent nor the Board of Education members. However, no “program” is a panacea; I am very proud of what our other middle school do and the results that they are posting on both state and national assessments. Because of that, they may choose to stick with what they are doing because they are having excellent growth and success. This is the purpose of site-based decision making law; schools choose instructional methods and assignment of students based their judgment of their students’ needs.
In the final analysis, I agree with Mike that our schools should be a place where every student matters and can dream. I think he would agree that we also must provide as much choice and opportunity to our students as possible so they can fulfill those dreams and even inspire them to bigger dreams.
Bullitt County Board of Education