Posted by: Magistra | September 24, 2006


Following Ms. Cornelius’ advice, I read this Washington Post article about honors/advanced/AP courses. I thought I would chime in with my own two cents about what an honors course does and doesn’t do, or what passing an AP test does or doesn’t mean, but then I got to the last paragraph of the article. (The “benchmarks” refer to state standardized tests.)

Without such benchmarks, said Andrew Rotherham, a former White House education adviser and a member of the Virginia Board of Education, “there is too much variance, and that ultimately disadvantages students, in particular poor and minority students. It sounds very romantic to say, ‘Leave it all to the schools or the teacher,’ but it just doesn’t work in a system as heterogeneous, in every way, as ours is.”

Is he for real? I don’t even want to talk about uses for standardized tests, or the idea that trusting schools and teachers is “romantic.” I just want to know if he actually believes that living in a heterogeneous society requires a homogeneous solution. Because first, a heterogeneous situation is not a problem that needs to be solved. Yes, it will require a different approach than a homogeneous situation requires, but that makes it different, not wrong. Second, if you have identified the situation as heterogeneous, as he does, how can you then gloss over the very definition of heterogeneous and pretend one measurement will be appropriate in all situations?


  1. Hmm, I find standardization of curricula terribly unromantic. Unappealing, even, and perhaps repugnant. But even in AP, there’s a variety of teachers and student ability. These are factors which can’t be controlled.

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