Elite but Inefficient

Currently, the way that we are approaching the process of placing young students into higher levels of education in prosperous school districts is ineffective. In already extremely advanced school districts, it is not necessary to separate young students, starting at the age of 8, into different classes and is hurtful to many other kids in these district. The platform of higher education in elementary and middle schools must be reformed to include more kids and be available at more schools. In many districts, especially in middle class suburbs, including District 203, District 204 in Illinois to districts in places such as Washington: Kennewick School District, have a program that includes their top 2%.  These programs are considered two years ahead of the “normal track,” however, this exclusive 2% must be expanded to include at least the top 10%. Some may say expanding the program will make it less elite and will not suite the students who are bored in the honors track, however, the difficulty will not be lowered, and the opportunity to learn at this level should not be elite. Additionally, kids that are bored at this level of education must receive supplemental material at home. To conclude, in the middle school and elementary school years, colleges are not looking at students’ distinguishments, so why are school districts giving such an inherent advantage to those who subsequently score well on standardized tests, giving them a 2 year advantage when starting high school in subjects such as math and already exposing them to advanced and rigorous coursework.

In District 203 in Naperville, IL, the program is named, PI+ and encompasses the top 2% of the district. The irony is that District 203 already includes some of the most advanced schools and students in the nation. Separating students even more at such a young age just creates a sense of egotism and elitism between the kids in the district at such a young age. Additionally, with such a small percentage of kids that qualify, only a small amount of kids actually decide to enroll in the program. Currently, PI+ students are placed in another, separate building at Kennedy Junior High School. Regardless of where students live and their corresponding elementary school, they must attend Kennedy for their junior high education if they apt into the PI+ program. Sadly, these kids are not immersed in the typical district atmosphere. This only worsens as they transfer to high school going from a population of 800 to 3000. This situation is not unique when looking at many other districts that follow this model, and the effects on the students are the same; it hurts them socially, and in all honesty they must be well versed in the social world within high school, rather than be buried in a textbook. This would be solved by expanding the program and including it in every school to make it more immersive and not seclude the kids to a separate building.

Additionally, most kids can handle the advanced curriculum of PI+. Currently I am a junior in highschool, but I did not get accepted into the honors math program until 5th grade and did not qualify into my PI+ until 6th grade. However, this is not representative of my academic abilities. Currently I attend both my local college, North Central College, and my community college, College of Dupage taking math at both. At North Central College, I am enrolled in a Math 280 class, which is equivalent to a late sophomore year math course. At College of Dupage, I am enrolled in a course that is equivalent to math 440 at University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaigne, a class for seniors in college. I have been successful in both of these classes, but was not in PI+. However, not being in these advanced programs makes it so much more difficult and so much more expensive to be advanced in education. I had to get a private tutor, take placement tests, and do many more things in order to learn at a higher level. Not only is it ridiculous that it is so difficult to have a higher education if not enrolled in these programs, but it is unacceptable to only include such a small amount of people based only upon a standardized test. Overall, the opportunity to have a higher education should be more uniform and be easier to access in such prosperous districts, with middle class families.

Overall, although people may argue that the program may not be as elite, the truth is that the level of education and rigor that these advanced curriculums offer should be more normal. Students in this district mostly come from successful families, posses the inner drive, and have a safe atmosphere with quality teachers to excel and learn at a higher level. Additionally, the social consequence of the exclusivity these programs and the seclusion of the students is overall consequential later in their life and in high school. We must realize that to effectively create an atmosphere to enhance education in districts, this kind of program must encompass the top 10% of students and implement the program at all schools for easier access and more opportunity for students to grow and learn in their adolescence.

~ Colin Jensen

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