Mary Dean Benasso: "Equal Access" and reality |

Mary Dean Benasso: "Equal Access" and reality

Mary Dean Benasso

I applaud our district’s “equal access” goals. And after reading Theresa Neumaier’s rosy, gloriously fact-free letter, I felt almost optimistic about it. But then there was that nagging reminder of, well, reality.

What’s good in theory can be lousy in practice when you don’t have the proper resources.

So, take off your rose-colored goggles, dudes, and get a load of the facts.

1. No one was ever denied access to honor classes. This is a misunderstanding we can blame on the terminology “equal access,” which implies that prior to this program not everyone had access to honors classes. Untrue. At SHS, there is no barrier to taking honors level classes. No tests or specific CSAP scores are required. At SMS, one reason they gave for dropping honors was that there was never a requirement for entry, and the content was no different anyway.

2. The model our school board selected for achieving their equal access goals is a model called “honors for all.” They cite a New York school as an example of what it can achieve.

But – and here’s that pesky reality thing again – our Summit schools’ resources and challenges are vastly different from theirs. The N.Y. school spends almost three times what we do on individual student instruction. Further, only 2 percent of the N.Y. school’s student population are English Language Learners. We have almost 25 percent. And, the N.Y. school enjoys smaller class sizes.

These huge differences make an already difficult goal much harder for our incredible teachers to achieve. And ALL of our kids are going to suffer because of it.

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