Fort Wayne Community Schools board decides to continue honors classes

(Courtesy of Fort Wayne Community Schools)

Fort Wayne Community Schools will continue offering honors courses.

The FWCS board of school trustees announced the decision about 2:40 p.m. Friday. The decision follows a lengthy school board meeting Monday night filled with to standing-room capacity by parents concerned about a possible plan to end honors classes in favor of a “unified classroom” containing students of various abilities and academic performance levels.

“FWCS will evaluate all honors course curriculum for consistency across different courses and schools, as well as criteria for enrollment in honors courses,” the board’s statement said. “The goal of the FWCS board of school trustees and administration has been, and will continue to be, ensuring all students are educated to high standards.

“To that end, we will examine how we can provide access to advanced-level work to more students,” the board’s statement said. “The FWCS board hopes that both students and parents accept the challenge of continual involvement in education issues throughout the district.”

The decision was sure to please parents, whose concern about the possible loss of honors classes consumed much Monday night’s school board meeting.

“I am pleased that the board has decided that we are not going to compromise the high-ability student’s education,” parent Brooke Sellhorn said in an email reply to News-Sentinel.com. “Honors students desire to learn and to compete with other like-minded students who are pursuing higher education,” Sellhorn added, noting many high-ability students are seeking to attend highly selective universities.

“At the same time, we want everyone to have a top-quality education in FWCS schools and do agree in the education of all students to high, rigorous standards,” said Sellhorn, whose children now attend Croninger Elementary School.

She suggested FWCS consider expanding and diversifying its honors course offerings as a way to meet the needs of all students.

“I do hope that parents will be included in the discussion of how to best utilize and maximize the $50 million grant monies to make our school system competitive, desirable and excellent,” Sellhorn said.

FWCS Superintendent Wendy Robinson had presented a proposed plan at Monday night’s school board meeting suggesting the district move to unified classrooms to help inspire lower-performing students to pursue the challenge of honors-level coursework while the teacher still would provide honors-level work for higher-performing students.

More than 25 parents took turns at a microphone to voice concern about the plan, fearing placing lower-performing students with honors students would disrupt honors students’ learning, attitude and success.

A few parents said they would remove their children from FWCS if the district followed through with the plan.

FWCS officials said they believe teachers can tackle the challenges of a unified classroom, and such an approach would encourage lower-performing students to pursue more difficult course work while still challenging higher-performing students. FWCS planned to use a portion of a potentially $50 million federal grant to provide more training to teachers to succeed with this approach.

FWCS BOARD STATEMENT

Here is the full statement by the FWCS board of school trustees regarding honors classes:

“After consideration of all viewpoints, FWCS has decided to continue its practice of offering honors courses. FWCS will evaluate all honors course curriculum for consistency across different courses and schools, as well as criteria for enrollment in honors courses. The goal of the FWCS Board of School Trustees and Administration has been, and will continue to be, ensuring all students are educated to high standards. To that end, we will examine how we can provide access to advanced-level work to more students. The FWCS Board hopes that both students and parents accept the challenge of continual involvement in education issues throughout the District.”

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