Embedded Honors faces possible reintroduction
By Isabelle Spence, Co-Content Editor
In order to expand learning opportunities for interested students, the English department is considering reintroducing an embedded honors course to its curriculum as early as the upcoming spring semester. The program would be a continuation of a similar program last year, in which a focus was placed on creating an equitable learning environment
The embedded honors curriculum was initially introduced to the school last spring semester. In the system, honors students would be integrated within the regular English classes. These students are then given supplemental readings, take part in out-of-class discussions, and teach their findings to the rest of the class. The quizzes or tests for the embedded honors students have extension questions and cover additional material not discussed class.
“[Embedded honors students] were challenged to kind of think on their feet, and think on their own to come up with an answer,” English teacher and initiative leader Stephen Floyd said.
The purpose of this system, as opposed to an AP or regular Honors-style course, is to prevent “tracking” among students. This is the idea that putting students into separate classes based on academic levels puts students into different academic tracks, which in turn prevents cross-grade interactions, because of the way schedules work.
The embedded honors program was met with enthusiasm from the school administration.
“[Embedded Honors] really appealed to me because it created the possibility for students to have an acknowledgement on their transcript that they were seeking the most challenging course offerings available to them,” principal Danny Rock said.
Similar challenging programs have been used at nearby high schools. VHS’s classes were largely designed by former English teacher Dee Draven. When she resigned, the program was halted.
“I didn’t feel ready to do that on my own without further consultation,” Floyd said. “We wanted to take the time to talk about it more, and figure out how to do it more effectively before we brought it back.”
However, the issues facing the program extended beyond Draven’s absence. Even when the system was in place last semester, the future of the embedded honors curriculum was uncertain.
“We weren’t sure that it was creating the kind of learning environment that we wanted,” English teacher John Rees said.
The program’s installation also came with its own issues.
“It was hard for us to really wrap our heads around what was honors-level work versus what was not,” Rees said.
Despite these difficulties, the staff does not regret introducing the program.
“We knew that it was just going to be an experiment last spring,” Floyd said. “[However,] I feel like I learned some things.”
The English department is currently in the middle of redesigning the program. The curriculum could be introduced as early as next semester, though it may be delayed until the 2019-2020 school year. The district administration is pushing to install the system sooner rather than later.
When the initial embedded curriculum was canceled, many students expressed disappointment, as they had been planning to enroll in the course.
“I feel like there’s at least a core group of students who are already kind of excited and eager for that kind of challenge,” Floyd said.
Others are more cautious.
“I’m fine with [the embedded honors program] if it feels to me that it is being done in a way that creates an equitable learning environment for everyone,” Rees said.
The curriculum still requires significant work before it can be reintroduced to the student body.
“We’re collaborating and trying to figure out ways to really make that work,” Floyd said. “If we can come up with a framework that we think is going to contribute to the success of every student in the classroom, and give an additional challenge to the students who sign up for an honors class, then we’ll be ready to bring it back.”