CULVER CITY, Calif.—A group of parents stepped to the lectern Tuesday night at a school board meeting in this middle-class, Los Angeles-area city to push back against a racial-equity initiative. The high school, they argued, should reinstate honors English classes that were eliminated because they didn’t enroll enough Black and Latino students.
The district earlier this school year replaced the honors classes at Culver City High School with uniform courses that officials say will ensure students of all races receive an equal, rigorous education.
These parents disagreed.
I’m at the point now where if an educational initiative has “equity” in its reasoning or title, being in opposition is my default assumption and position. I’m not saying I couldn’t be convinced otherwise, but I’m skeptical and critical of almost all the “equity” reasoning I’ve seen.
Since the start of this school year, freshmen and sophomores in Culver City have only been able to select one level of English class, known as College Prep, rather than the previous system in which anyone could opt into the honors class. School officials say the goal is to teach everyone with an equal level of rigor, one that encourages them to enroll in advanced classes in their final years of high school.
They do achieve “an equal level of rigor,” one that is very low compared to traditional honors classes.
[Ninth grader Emma Frigola] said her English teacher, who used to teach the honors class, is trying to maintain a higher standard, but that it doesn’t always seem to be working.
“There are some people who slow down the pace because they don’t really do anything and aren’t looking to try harder,” Emma said. “I don’t think you can force that into people.”
Emma has learned an important lesson that seems lost on many of the adults in her sphere: You can guarantee opportunity, but you can’t guarantee outcome (unless you lower the standards to the floor and frequently not even then).
“This is not a social experiment,” board member Jon Kean said at a meeting last spring. “This is a sound pedagogical approach to education.”
This is very much an almost instantly failing social experiment and not at all a sound pedagogical approach to education.
…Critics say attempting to teach everyone at an elevated level isn’t realistic and that teachers, even with the best intentions, may end up simplifying instruction. Instead, some educators and parents argue schools should find more ways to diversify honors courses and encourage students to enroll who aren’t self-selecting, including proactively reaching out to students, using an opt-out system, or looking to teacher recommendations.
“I just don’t see how removing something from some kids all of a sudden helps other kids learn faster,” said Scott Peters, a senior research scientist at education research nonprofit NWEA who has studied equity in gifted and talented programs.
And so the destruction of American public education continues.