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FAIRGRADE president Louise Epstein thanks School Board members who voted to offer five live honors courses in Fall 2012 

Dear School Board Members,
 
I want to thank those of you who voted for the motion on January 26th to offer live honors courses in English 11, English 12, World History 2, US/VA History and Government, starting Fall 2012.   My special thanks to those who also voted during the January 12th forum to put this issue on upcoming agendas, who indicated during the January 23rd work session that they would support a motion to offer all 5 courses in Fall 2012, and who voted on January 26th for Megan McLaughlin's amendment to the main motion.
 
This is only the beginning.  As everyone acknowledges, proper implementation is crucial.
 
Going forward, please evaluate Assistant Superintendents in the Cluster offices and the Department of Instruction, as well as Superintendent Dale and Deputy Superintendent Moniuszko, on how successfully these five honors courses are being implemented.  Otherwise, some principals, with the implicit support of their supervisors, may find ways to undermine the intent of Thursday night's motion.
 
For this purpose, I would suggest defining success in light of the goals of the motion – giving students true access to five genuine honors courses, the workload and rigor of which are roughly halfway between AP and standard level courses.  Initially, that includes communicating accurate information about these honors courses and how they will compare to the alternatives (AP/IB and standard level) to classroom teachers, students and their parents on a timely basis.
 
To understand how principals are implementing this motion, I encourage you to obtain enrollment data for AP, honors and standard level courses at each high school this spring, after students submit their course selection forms.  If enrollment in any of these honors courses is low at any high school, I would recommend asking classroom teachers, parents and students at that high school what factors they think resulted in low enrollment.  Next fall, I would recommend asking classroom teachers, students and their parents, as well as administrators, for feedback on the courses and also on the intended and unintended consequences of offering these 5 honors courses.
 
These types of discussions should be helpful not only in evaluating how well these five honors courses are being implemented in each high school, but also should result in better discussions during future work sessions and other School Board meetings about how to improve instruction.
 
Sincerely,
 
Louise Epstein
President, FAIRGRADE



ACTION NEEDED on 5 LIVE Honors Courses

 School Board Votes to Put Honors On January 23rd Work Session
and January 26th School Board Meeting Agendas!
 
On Thursday, January 12th, 2012, nine School Board members voted during their “forum” to put the honors on the agendas for the January 23rd work session, and for the January 26th School Board meeting.  

The three School Board members who did not vote to put honors on the agendas  during the forum were Janie Strauss, Kathy Smith, and Ilryong Moon.  During the later televised business meeting, Strauss and Moon switched sides and voted with the majority.

Please contact all School Board members before January 23rd to let them know why students would benefit from having THREE choices (AP, Honors and Standard Level) when they sign up for English in their junior and senior years, and for social studies required classes in their sophomore, junior and senior years.  

For current School Board member contact information, click here.

Future updates about the joint FAIRGRADE/Restore Honors Courses efforts will be posted at http://restorehonorscourses.org.

For further information, please contact FAIRGRADE president Louise Epstein at lepstein@cox.net.
 
 
Update on Restoring 5 LIVE Honors Courses
 
You were the driving force to make FAIRGRADE a success in changing FCPS’ harmful grading policies. We need your help again to ensure a rigorous high school curriculum that meets the needs of all levels of learners.

PLEASE READ BELOW & SIGN the new i-petition at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/restorehonorscourses/

FCPS has been gradually phasing out LIVE high school Honors courses for English and Social Studies/History.    

Our community needs FCPS to restore 5 LIVE Honors courses in these subjects so that students can choose between AP, Honors and Standard level courses.

We would like the School Board to look at this important issue to determine if FCPS should offer these important LIVE Honors courses to students for the 2012-2013 school year.  To date, FCPS has dismissed the value of these Honors courses, without any substantive data to support their actions.

Your support and involvement in addressing this issue is essential!  Please read the facts below and take action.  
Facts about FCPS Honors Courses

•Over 60% of FCPS’ graduates will attend 4-year colleges (FCPS Profile).

•"Strength of the curriculum" and "grades in college-prep classes” are the 2 most important factors in college admissions decisions (NACAC-State of College Admissions Report, 2010)

•FCPS no longer offers live honors courses in World History 2 (10th grade), English 11 and US History 11 (11th grade), English 12 and US Government (12th Grade) at AP base high schools;

•College admissions and scholarship opportunities may be negatively impacted when these 5  honors courses are not offered;

•Most high school students are not academically prepared to take 4 or more AP courses in one year;

•FCPS routinely recommends that students take no more than 2 or 3 AP classes per year;

•It is instructional "best practice" to provide a continuum of instructional levels to meet the academic needs of all students;

•Other high-achieving school districts offer three or more levels of classes in these subjects, including honors and AP classes; and

•FCPS currently offers - or has recently offered - these 5 honors courses at various IB high schools and/or at TJHSST, but not at the 16 FCPS AP base high schools;

•Roughly 30% of base high school students fail AP exams in these five subjects.  The failure rates are higher for the AP English and AP History/Government courses taken during junior and senior years, when students are trying to juggle more advanced courses with extra-curricular activities and other obligations;

•FCPS School Board Regulation 3201.20 requires "a balanced curriculum so that students at various levels of achievement are able to select appropriate courses to meet individual learning needs."
 
 
 STEPS FAIRGRADE SUPPORTERS CAN TAKE RIGHT NOW

1. Sign the iPetition on this issue at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/restorehonorscourses/

2. Email School Board members (addresses below) and ask them to restore the following five live Honors courses:  World History 2 (10th grade), English 11 and US History (11th grade), English 12 and US Government (12th grade).

3. Email the School Board with your student and parent testimonials about the value of these honors courses and how they differ from the Standard level or AP experience.

4. Forward this email on to as many parents as you know to alert them to this issue and encourage them to get involved.

Thank you for your continued support of FAIRGRADE.


FAIRFAX COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD EMAIL ADDRESSES

Sully District - Kathy Smith: Kathy.L.Smith@fcps.edu

Braddock District - Tessie Wilson:  tessie.wilson@fcps.edu

Springfield District - Elizabeth Bradsher: elizabeth.bradsher@fcps.edu

Lee District - Brad Center: brad.center@fcps.edu

Hunter Mill District – Stu Gibson: stuart.gibson@fcps.edu

Providence District – Patty Reed: patty.reed@fcps.edu

Mount Vernon District – Dan Storck: Daniel.Storck@fcps.edu

Dranesville District – Janie Strauss: jkstrauss@fcps.edu

Mason District – Sandy Evans: ssevans@fcps.edu

At-Large – Tina Hone: Martina.Hone@fcps.edu

At-Large – Ilyrong Moon: ilryong.Moon@fcps.edu

At-Large – Jim Raney: james.raney@fcps.edu





Good News & Bad News on Honors Issue

THE GOOD NEWS

At last Thursday’s Forum (4.28.11), the School Board agreed to further examine the lack of upper-level honors courses in English and Social Studies at FCPS' AP high schools. (Not including Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology - TJHSST.)

FAIRGRADE and the advocacy group Restore Honors Courses (RHC) are promoting a countywide effort to have FCPS provide these valuable upper-level honors courses in order to meet the educational needs of ALL students.

THE BAD NEWS

Superintendent Dale, School Board Chairman Kathy Smith, and other School Board members are choosing to “play semantics" rather than address this substantive educational concern parents have raised.

Our school system deserves a more transparent discussion.

Importantly, their public responses:

1. Fail to acknowledge the lack of upper-level honors courses in English and Social Studies at the AP high schools;

2. Fail to address the negative impact this may have on the educational needs of FCPS students; and

3. Fail to admit that the curriculum for these 5 upper-level honors courses already exists in FCPS' IB high schools and/or TJHSST.

The following are examples of what FCPS representatives are saying:

1. Supt. Dale publicly stated: "There are no plans to eliminate any course offerings in our high schools."

• FACT: There are "no plans" because FCPS has already phased out these courses at the AP high schools. Most recently this year, the Dept. of Instructional Services eliminated World History & Geography 2 Honors for Fall 2011.

2. Supt. Dale stated, “The courses don’t currently exist and haven’t for years in some cases, or in others, never existed," and,

3. Chairman Kathy Smith stated: “An inaccuracy is being circulated about a 'restoration of five honors courses.' The truth is that three of the courses mentioned (English Honors 12, US/VA History Honors, and VA/US Government Honors) never existed, so it is quite misleading to suggest they have been eliminated,” and,

4. School Board Member Jane Strauss stated: “First, there never were honors courses for English 12, U.S. History and Government. So an honors level would have to be written, approved and staffed."

FACT: As noted above, these 5 upper-level honors-weighted courses ARE currently offered at non-AP high schools. For example, US VA Government Honors (course #244507) and World History & Geography 2 Honors (course #222136) are offered at several FCPS IB high schools including Annandale HS, Robinson Secondary, and Mount Vernon HS. Honors-weighted versions of US/VA History, English 11 & English 12 are offered at TJHSST.

 A future School Board work session will be scheduled to discuss this issue.
 
It is imperative that the School Board members be made aware of community support for this valuable range of learning options for AP high school students.
 
Before sending future emails to the Superintendent and School Board, please read the news coverage of this issue here on our website in order to fully inform yourself about the facts of this complex issue.

Finally, FAIRGRADE inadvertently omitted two School Board members - Jane Strauss and Sandy Evans - from the distribution list. Our apologies for this oversight. Here is a complete list.

Kathy.L.Smith@fcps.edu
tessie.wilson@fcps.edu
elizabeth.bradsher@fcps.edu
brad.center@fcps.edu
stuart.gibson@fcps.edu
Martina.Hone@fcps.edu
ilryong.Moon@fcps.edu
james.raney@fcps.edu
patty.reed@fcps.edu
Daniel.Storck@fcps.edu
jkstrauss@fcps.edu
ssevans@fcps.eduJack.Dale@fcps.edu.

We will continue to monitor this issue closely and keep you apprised of any new developments. Please continue forwarding your emails to us.

Thank you for your continued support of FAIRGRADE.




RESTORATION OF HONORS COURSES

BACKGROUND ON ISSUE

FCPS has been gradually phasing out English and Social Studies Honors courses for 10th, 11th and 12th grade within FCPS' AP base high schools when there is a corresponding AP course.
 
These classes include:  English Honors 11, English Honors 12, World History 2 Honors, US History Honors, and Government Honors

Countywide concerns among parents and students are growing because this is harmful to student achievement and college admissions opportunities. To date, the Fairfax County Council of PTAs and the following high schools are examining this issue: West Potomac, Woodson, McLean, South County, Westfield & Langley.

FAIRGRADE values a rigorous curriculum that meets the needs of ALL students. We believe the elimination of these honors courses warrants the School Board's immediate corrective action to ensure a quality education for all FCPS students.

WHY THIS IS A PROBLEM

1.    Surrounding school districts such as Montgomery, Howard, and Loudoun Counties provide these 5 valuable upper-levels honors courses. FCPS should provide the same quality of education for its students.

2.    Approximately 70+ percent of FCPS' graduates continue on to 4-year colleges/universities. Therefore, rigorous course options – including honors courses - are critically important for college-level readiness, college admissions and scholarship opportunities.

3.    Not all students can or want to take multiple AP courses each year. The honors alternative is a critical option for many FCPS students, especially when FCPS routinely recommends that students take no more than 2-3 AP courses per year.

4.    FCPS already has the curriculum developed for these upper-level honors courses, some of which are still offered at select IB schools and/or Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology. Therefore, no curriculum development costs would be required to make them available at the 18 AP base high schools.

5.    Offering these honors courses need not require additional staffing costs.

6.    FCPS is not fulfilling a December 2010 School Board Regulation (3201.20) that specifically requires FCPS to: "Ensure a balanced curriculum so that students at various levels of achievement are able to select appropriate courses to meet individual learning needs."

7.    Honors courses can provide a valuable academic "bridge" for some General Education students as they progress into the 11th and 12th grade curriculum, and need a transition before taking college-level AP courses.
 
8.    FCPS lacks substantive data analysis to justify the elimination of these 5 upper-level honors alternative courses.  FCPS' publicly cited research (Loveless and Corbett-Burris) does NOT support a 2-tier high school curriculum, contrary to the a FCPS Department of Instructional Services 8-page report.  (A PDF file of this report is posted under "News & Press" in the "Useful Downloads" category on this website - click HERE)

9.    FCPS' current practices contradict research findings (Loveless and Corbett-Burris) regarding how to close the achievement gap for under-represented minorities.
 
WHAT FAIRGRADE IS DOING ABOUT THIS ISSUE
 
FAIRGRADE values a rigorous curriculum that meets the needs of ALL students.
 
FAIRGRADE and another parent advocacy group called Restore Honors Courses (RHC) have spent several months researching the data and lobbying FCPS officials to explain this curriculum elimination and asking them to take corrective action.
 
FAIRGRADE and RHC are also issuing a countywide "Common Resolution" for AP high school PTAs/PTOs to endorse that requests FCPS to restore these five Honors Courses.  
 
Shortly, our groups will also prepare an online "i-Petition" that the community can sign in support of this issue.  
 
We are also asking FAIRGRADE supporter to Email the School Board and Superintendent Jack Dale asking them to restore these five Honors Courses – English Honors 11, English Honors 12, World History 2, US History Honors, and Government Honors.

School Board member addresses are:
 
Kathy.L.Smith@fcps.edu
tessie.wilson@fcps.edu
elizabeth.bradsher@fcps.edu
brad.center@fcps.edu
stuart.gibson@fcps.edu
Martina.Hone@fcps.edu
ilryong.Moon@fcps.edu
james.raney@fcps.edu
patty.reed@fcps.edu
Daniel.Storck@fcps.edu
Jack.Dale@fcps.edu.

MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE ISSUE

For more perspective on this issue, check out the RedAppleMom blog - written by FAIRGRADE's Director of Communications Catherine Lorenze located at www.RedAppleMom.wordpress.com  - AND -  www.RedAppleMom.com
 
FAIRGRADE President Megan McLaughlin has also been interviewed by both WAMU-88.5FM and The Connection Newspapers.  She is quoted in both outlets discussing how the elimination of these Honors courses puts FCPS students at a competitive disadvantage.
 
WAMU:  Parents Urge Fairfax Schools to Bring Back Honors - April 28, 2011

The Connection NewspaperFighting for Honors Program - January 14, 2011