The Washington Post

When is it OK to have an empty classroom?

If you put more advanced classes into low-performing middle and high schools, will you get students who are capable of doing more advanced work? Or will administrators be tempted to fill those classes with students who aren’t ready for them?

One thing that D.C. Council member David Catania and DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson agreed on at a D.C. Council hearing last week was that DCPS needs to standardize the offerings for its middle-grade students to ensure that all kids have access to advanced classes. Catania noted, for example, that some middle schools don’t offer algebra, while Alice Deal in Ward 3 offers pre-Algebra, Algebra I and geometry.

At the same time, Catania acknowledged that many students at DCPS middle schools aren’t prepared to do middle-school-level work. “We may have some empty algebra classes at the beginning,” he said. Henderson agreed, noting that standardizing the curriculum will mean that “every space is not going to be full.”

Catania advanced the notion that “if you build it, they will come.” That is, if you introduce more advanced programming in middle schools, students who can handle the academic challenge will be drawn to them.

[Continue reading Natalie Wexler’s post at Greater Greater Education.]

Natalie Wexler is the editor of Greater Greater Education and a member of the board of the D.C. Scholars Public Charter School. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

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