Barry Lazarus: Summit County students need to be challenged
November 27, 2011
By our school board’s admission, students test slightly above state average. The board, students, teachers and parents are wrangling with how to define a gifted student, how best to support, and how to make the student feel comfortable inside and outside the classroom.
Summit High School is contemplating mainstreaming all students who wish to be in honors classes. Everyone should learn at the highest level, no matter their qualifications. Honors instructors will have to decide how best to challenge students at each level of learning in the same classroom. Daunting. Students need to be comfortable.
My education took place decades ago, but “comfortable” was never a word spoken. My parents pushed me to study hard. My teachers were demanding. Each Friday in elementary school, I took a spelling and arithmetic test. The following Monday, students in my homeroom gathered their belongings and moved to the first row for the high achievers and so on down to the last row for the less successful. Each of us knew where we stood in the academic firmament. No one complained this was unfair; nor were we kept comfortable. We were busting our gut each week to get to the first row.
My high school had numbered classes for each academic year. Best students were in 1 and the worst in 15. Our placement was not determined by comfort, but by competition. Did the students complain, did the parents rise up in arms to protest? Rank was determined on testing and grades. Who could really argue?
All of us wish our Summit County students academic success, our schools to rank at the top. We have funding challenges, we have students for whom English is a second language – but so do other, more successful school systems in our state. What should our school board do?
Comfort and collaboration need to be replaced by competition and demand. Parents must demand their children’s best effort and support their exertion. Teachers must do their utmost to stimulate their students and be rewarded meritoriously. Acknowledged gifted students must receive the finest instruction while held as exemplars for other students who may need to be pushed to rise up. Honors classes are for those who are qualified by grades, testing and recommendation. The brightest students should not be held back by those who are less academically skilled. A student desiring honor class matriculation can bust butt to qualify.
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Our nation was founded on competition. Our student/athletes compete on the athletic field and ski slope. Their times and position are published and praised. Bring competition back into the classroom. Honor the academic valedictorian; hail the top graded students and rank them. Publish their names. Sing their praise. Students need not be comfortable; they need to be challenged.