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Manchester schools back off on 'de-leveling'

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 27. 2014 10:50PM

MANCHESTER — School officials say they are taking a cautious approach to “de-leveling” and have no plans at this point to eliminate advanced-track courses.

Assistant Superintendent David Ryan told members of the school board’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee Tuesday that plans to institute a pilot program at one of the city’s middle schools, in which students of differing abilities would be taught in the same classroom, were only in the discussion phase.

“There was no action taken on it, and we have not made plans to move forward on it,” he said.

Last month, Ryan told the committee that de-leveling was an important way to address the district’s “achievement gap” — the disparity between the academic performance of white and minority students.

Several parents and residents have raised concerns about eliminating leveled courses, including two residents at Tuesday’s meeting. Some school board members have also criticized moves toward de-leveling, arguing they would deprive high-achieving students of all races of opportunities.

The meeting began with a statement from committee Chairman Erika Connors, Ward 8, stressing that any changes to the current level-based organization of classes in the middle and high schools would only happen cautiously and with input from parents.

“Over the next few months we’ll be working on the achievement gap that exists,” Connors said after the meeting. “We may look at leveling and how we track students, but we’re also going to be looking at how to expand AP (advanced placement) opportunities for all students ... We’re going to be very cautious. We won’t be sacrificing the needs of one group of students to meet the needs of another group of students.”

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