Potential Cut of H.S. Honors Classes Raises Concerns

Honors classes provide a challenge for students who are not at AP level but would be bored in regular classes, parents and students say.

Chatham Superintendent Michael LaSusa began the meeting Monday with a statement meant to dispel "a rumor that I had single-handedly made a decision to eliminate classes at the high school."

"There is no such proposal on the table at the present time," LaSusa said. "Any notions of that realm in terms of [the] high school [are] ill-founded."

The administration has tried in past years to make class levels consistent in each subject and at each grade level in the high school, LaSusa said. The idea is to have three course levels to choose from in each subject and in each year:

  • A concepts course for students who have difficulty grasping a subject
  • A regular-level course for students who do not have difficulty in a class but are not ready for a higher challenge;
  • and either an honors or Advanced Placement (AP) course for students who excel in the subject.

Over the last two years, has expanded the number of subjects in which they offer AP or honors classes. At the same time, some honors classes have been dropped in favor of an AP class in that subject. This happened in Physics as part of the 2012-13 school budget: For the current school year, Honors Physics was dropped from the curriculum and AP Physics was added.

Parents said AP was not an alternative to honors for all students. A student earning Bs and Cs at the honors level would not do well in an AP class, but taking a regular-level class could hurt chances of getting accepted to top colleges.

One high school student who identified herself as Gianna Mackery said she knew of fellow students who had already opted for regular-level courses instead of AP courses when the honors option was taken away.

"The AP class is so much more work than the honors," she said, but "teachers teach down to regular students. There's going to be a lot more kids challenged less if they take regular classes when they could take honors."

LaSusa stated several times that no decision had been made regarding future changes to the curriculum at this time. Board Member Jill Weber said when the decision was made to change the science sequence and drop Honors Physics in favor of of AP Physics, "it was a five-year thing" to bring the plan to fruition.

Board Member Richard Connors said residents should "rest assured, this is not something we're going to do at midnight or over the summer." Any serious discussion would be made known to the public in advance and with time for the public to weigh in.

Tracey Tango said the 50 who gathered for Monday's meeting were able to come together with only a couple of hours' notice on this issue. She asked the board to consider how many parents would come if the parents had days to prepare.

chatham7 September 11, 2012 at 10:48 AM
Editor - . Where were the "Potential Cuts" referenced in your title? There were none is the answer. Title, should be "RUMOR of Potential Cuts.... What happened here is a parent misinterpreted Superintendent LaSusa's letter (BYW a letter that came out over a month ago) and whipped a crowd into a frenzy yesterday due to their misinterpreation. It is fantastic to see parents wanting to be involved in curriculum discussions. They should be and the current curriculum SHOULD be protected AND even enhanced. What is NOT need and unproductive is what happened yesterday. And yes Tracy. I am sure if you had more time and a similar false hysteria you can gather more than 50 people. Good for you.
tracey tango September 11, 2012 at 11:43 AM
@chat5-False hysteria? Actually a parent had direct contact with Mr La Susa and was NOT going just by his letter. Also as some investigating was done-some administration had knowledge of this possibility. If you were there last night you heard the contradiction in statements as well. I had a HS parent next to me livid about Honors classes already taken out. As far as last night-it was EXTREMELY productive. Mr. La Susa and the board are definitely aware that the residents will not let happen what is happening in other towns bringing a school system and property values down. The HS girl that spoke so well about needing honors because she is stuck in the middle-how is that unproductive? I do not think you were at the same meeting I was chat5. I would love to have a conversation anytime with you about the meeting or this topic but I dont know who you are. Tracey Tango
Duncan Munchkin September 11, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Never do I get so livid as I do when someone trying to sell a house in Chatham turns an educational discussion into a real estate discussion.
concerned parents September 12, 2012 at 07:13 PM
I couldn’t attend the BOE meeting on Monday. But I have read emails and heard a lot about this issue in discussion. Reading the article above, several things are immediately confusing to me. Specifically, here are some of my questions: "There is no such proposal on the table at the present time," LaSusa said. "Any notions of that realm in terms of [the] high school [are] ill-founded." – LaSusa said no SUCH proposal. But what is the actual proposal then? Has there been any proposal in terms of changing high school curriculum? Or, there is no proposal related to Chatham high school curriculum at the moment at all? “LaSusa stated several times that no decision had been made regarding future changes to the curriculum at this time. Board Member Jill Weber said when the decision was made to change the science sequence and drop Honors Physics in favor of of AP Physics, "it was a five-year thing" to bring the plan to fruition.” – Does this mean a proposal was made but no decision has come out yet? It is still not clear to me what has been proposed if it is not what all the parents have been talking about.
concerned parents September 12, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Board Member Jill Weber said the decision to drop Honors Physics took 5 years to come into implementation. Before we even question the rationale of dropping honors physics first, is Ms. Weber trying to comfort all current high school or middle school students’ parents because any current proposal will most likely not affect their children currently enrolled in high school or middle school? What about younger children? Parents with younger children aren’t voicing out as much yet because those parents may have thought it was still too early to think about high school for children currently in elementary schools. They have no knowledge on what may be lined up for their children in 5 years. But that doesn’t give anyone in this district the authority to change something that will significantly impact the future of those children. Coming back to the decision on dropping out Honors Physics in favor of AP Physics, anyone with logical thinking would ask why. We all know honors classes are the path to move on to AP classes. Removing honors classes and replacing them with AP classes is equivalent to hope to build a high rise building without the middle section. How successful will that be? The only reason I can think of would be to limit the number of students in the advanced classes, thus to reduce of cost of the district.
concerned parents September 12, 2012 at 07:17 PM
We all understand the economy hasn’t been great. Money is tight for the government and for individual families. But cutting spending on education is the last thing we want to see. Education is the hope for the future. The rise of Japan after the 2nd world war is a direct result of Japanese Government’s firm decision on its commitment to invest in education, both fundamental and advanced education for the entire population. Cutting education spending to save money is a nearsighted approach. Aside from a parent’s attempt at making the next generation of one’s family brighter and more capable than the last, there is nothing in the world that could come before giving that child every opportunity imaginable to be a success at whatever he or she chose to do with his or her life. Reducing or limiting the number of honors classes in this case defeats the purpose and limits the opportunities every student in this country deserves.
chatham7 September 12, 2012 at 07:45 PM
concerned parents - could not agree more that there should be NO cuts in education spending. That being said, where in this story or at the meeting (which I attended) did they talk about cuts to education spending.
concerned parents September 12, 2012 at 08:16 PM
It was not directly mentioned. On the other hand, many of us cannot think of any reason for reducing or limiting the number of honors classes if not for monetary reasons. That's another reason that more clarity is needed for the changes that have been made and any future proposed changes.
CHS alum September 13, 2012 at 12:37 AM
As a CHS alum who took regular, honors, and ap level classes, I can say that the AP classes are not any more demanding than honors. AP classes might seem harder but that is because they are taken during junior and senior year when when students have SATs and applications to worry about. And senior year classes should be much harder than sophomore year classss.
Chathammom September 14, 2012 at 01:30 PM
I am a CHS parent and read all of my e-mails from the school and the PTO. I was completely unaware that this was being discussed at Mondays' meeting. I would have liked a little notice so that I could have attended the meeting. Also, if this was a 5-year plan in the making, in what way did the BOE solicit parental input on this in the last 5 years?
MOCK September 17, 2012 at 11:45 AM
I do not have children in CHS yet, but seems like Honors is just a title. If there are 3 levels, you have classes where kids need more help, regular high school classes, and AP. Is this what they are eliminating, making just 2 levels? And to Dunkin Munchkin, if you do not think that your property value is directly related to school rankings, you are sadly mistaken. Whether Mrs. Tango has a house on the market or not, it is a very valid point.
bloggerof4 September 19, 2012 at 01:22 PM
District cuts do not have any impact on honors classes. Any teacher certified to teach at the high school level can teach honors classes. If they cannot, well, therein lies a problem. ap on the other hand requires a teacher to have a certification to teach ap, or it is not truly an ap certified class. With regards to Mr. LaSusa's comment that there are no plans to cut honors classes at the high school, what does it mean that he wants 3 levels: concepts, regular and honors or ap? Seems to me one goes, honors or ap. And I agree with one of the posts that honors is a stepping stone to ap in many cases. And, honors is NOT just for those students that fall somewhere above regular, but not quite ready for ap. It is also for those students that cannot find the time to do the work of an ap class. These are college, freshman level classes and they ARE hard. Maybe a student just doesn't have enough interest to put in that kind of time an would prefer other ap classes, but would not be challenged by concepts or regular. Happens all the time!! And make no mistake, our kids are not compared to others in the nation. They are compared to those in our area who DO have honors and ap - Millburn, Summit, New Providence, Mendham, and so on. Begin cutting out honors classes and you dilute our ability to compete with other students from the area.
bloggerof4 September 19, 2012 at 01:31 PM
To clarify my above point, if a class is a required part of the curriculum and you have 25 students that are qualified for that particular class as honors, how do cuts in budget matter. The students need the class, so it doesn't matter if the teacher teaches it honors or regular. As a matter of fact, each year those classes are adjusting depending on the needs of the students and I think our Administrators do an excellent job at balancing that. I'd hate to see it change.


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