Last night at the Incoming Seventh and Eighth Grade Informational Program for parents I briefly discussed two changes that are being made to our accelerated program for students entering seventh-grade beginning next year. These changes are described in detail in a letter that is posted on our website. To make a long story short, we are combining the seventh grade General and Accelerated Science Classes into one unified course for all students in seventh grade. Also, we will begin requiring that students who take accelerated math also take accelerated science. In my letter I discuss these changes and the reasons for them in great detail.
One important change we are NOT making to our accelerated program is that participation in the accelerated program at the middle school will continue to be “open enrollment”; that is, any student may choose to take Algebra and Earth Science if they wish to do so.
In sixth grade we make a recommendation to parents about which math/science program would be most appropriate for their children. Parents receive a letter about this in February. This recommendation is based upon the student’s academic progress as evidenced through classroom work as well as performance on classroom tests and benchmark exams.
Parents need to keep in mind that this is just a “recommendation”. We don’t feel that 12 year olds can or should make the decision whether or not to take an accelerated course on their own. It is the parents’ responsibility to steer their children in the appropriate direction and guide their children in educational decisions. This is the reason that we make a recommendation, to help the parent make an appropriate decision for their child. I cannot stress enough that it is fully the parent’s prerogative to put the child in the accelerated program, whether or not it is suggested by the school. There are no hard feelings if you decide to disagree with our recommendation; there is no test the child has to take; there are no waivers a parent has to sign; the child does not need to maintain a certain average to remain in the course. If a student chooses to take a more challenging curriculum offered through the accelerated program, that’s great.
However, we explain to parents that there are certain perils to taking an accelerated course in middle school if the child is not ready. Algebra and Earth Science are high school courses. The grades students receive in these classes count towards their cumulative GPA which will be included on their college applications. It can be more challenging to take Algebra and Earth Science as a middle school student than it is as a high schooler. There are no support classes for students who struggle in the accelerated program, as there would be in high school for a student taking Regent classes. Middle school students go on field trips, have team days, assemblies and many other essential aspects of the middle school experience that can, let’s just say, “distract” them from their academic priorities. Not to mention the challenges inherent in balancing the academic rigor of these more difficult high school courses with the changes of adolescence (pimples, growing pains, “boys”, “girls”… you get the picture). We ask parents to consider all of these factors before they make a decision with their children to take to the accelerated program.
At the end of the day, we want all students to be enrolled in courses that are appropriately challenging and help them to do their personal best. I appreciate your reflection on all of the factors described above as you make this decision.