Edison, NJ – The Edison School District is revising its grouping policies with an eye towards increasing access to Honors level coursework. After a series of meetings in February and March between the Administration and the Board of Education’s Curriculum and Technology Committee, the District’s Chief Academic Officer for Middle School and High Schools, Debra Gulick, announced proposed revisions at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting.
“We had several in depth meetings about access to Honors coursework,” said Curriculum and Technology Committee (“CTC”) Chair Shannon Peng. “Our committee wanted to remove unnecessary restrictions and give our children more opportunities to enroll in Honors courses, particularly in the subject areas that they are passionate about. We wanted a flexible and rational approach. For example, students shouldn't feel that they are being forced to take English Honors if thier passion is in science,” she added.
“In my opinion, the current grouping procedure isn’t fair, lacks transparency, and causes a lot of stress among the students, and really needed to be changed,” said Ms. Peng.
The revisions follow the elimination of the iReady testing program at middle schools and the adoption of new testing procedures. Last year, the District replaced the iReady tests with the PSAT 8/9, a precursor to the PSAT exam, that is administered to eighth grade students. The District is also administrating other district assessments through Linkit!, an online delivery system.
At its March 20 meeting, the Board of Education heard a presentation by Ms. Gulick regarding the revised grouping policies based on the new testing procedures and meetings with the CTC. There will be two major changes, according to Ms. Gulick.
First, under the new policy, students interested in enrolling in the Biology Honors program will not be required to also enroll in English and Math Honors courses. Instead, for a student to be eligible for the Biology Honors program, the student must also be enrolled in the Honors Math program and either be enrolled in the English Honors program or achieve a PSAT 8/9 score of at least 530.
“A PSAT 8/9 score of 530 captures the top 11% of all students nationally. That’s about 35% of our students,” said Ms. Gulick.
The second change will relate to eligibility criteria for the English Honors course. “We relaxed the scores in the English Honors as well, compared to what is posted right now,” said Ms. Gulik. The new criteria is based on the performance distribution data of the District’s students, she explained.
“It’s a good start,” said Ms. Peng. “There are still areas that I think we can improve. The bottom line is that a grouping system needs to be fair and transparent. We need to encourage our students to achieve their maximum potential.”
“I applaud the CTC committee. They spent hours and hours on site here,” said Ms. Gulik. “We did a lot of hard work, a lot of goal setting,” she said.
The final grouping policy for the 2019-2020 school year is still under discussion. It is expected to be presented to the public later this month or by early April. Ms. Gulick also indicated that the District will publish a simplified grouping policy for the 2020-2021 school year in June of 2019.