Dr. Hoven believes that middle school challenge courses create equity issues and has decided to eliminate them.

Dr. Hoven believes that middle school challenge courses create equity issues and has decided to eliminate them.

Updated: April 3, 2022:  This article from September 2021 was updated to fix references to “this year”

Superintendent Dr. Hoven really likes the word “equity” – he uses it incessantly.  But precisely what does he mean by it?   Sometimes it isn’t clear, but we take his meaning from how he applies it to his management of the schools.

Take for example that this year the district decided to eliminate challenge classes (Math, English, History) from our middle schools.  In Dr. Hoven’s January 25, 2021 letter to the board, he writes:

“Many districts have shown that middle school challenge courses create equity issues, and our Academic Team was planning to remove them going forward.  Academic Team meets tomorrow, then we will have some thorough talking points for you”

Notice the word “equity”?  The following information is taken from “talking points” and other documents that we obtained through sunshine requests:

“We will eliminate “Challenge” and “Pre-AP” courses at the middle school level over the course of several years.”
“Starting in the fall of 2021, middle schools in Francis Howell will no longer offer Challenge Math 6, Pre-AP English 6, and Pre-AP US History 8.”

So 6th grade challenge courses are eliminated in 2021, with 7th and 8th phased out over the following two years.  Their talking points go on to explain why:

  • Our practices have sometimes created tracking systems that have established a student’s secondary pathway and graduation outcome as early as 6th grade.
  • Reduce achievement gaps
  • Reduce opportunity gaps for underrepresented groups
  • Provide a benefit to all students, including those who have historically taken such courses in middle school.

In other words, students placed in challenge courses early tend to achieve at higher levels in later years.   Apparently that’s bad, since some “groups” are underrepresented in challenge courses and “achievement gaps” are a big problem for people who worry more about identity groups than individual students.

What are they basing this decision on?  The talking points say that they:

  • Reviewed research and looked at practices in other successful districts

What research?  FHSD purchased research from Education Technologies, Services, and Research (EAB).  Their motto is “We are Advancing DE&I in Education and Beyond“.  DE&I” refers to the new woke mantra: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Our review of the sequence of emails, minutes, and documents provided by the district leads us to the conclusion that the decision was made before meetings and research was conducted to justify that decision.  

Now we understand what Dr. Hoven means by “equity”:  equal outcomes based on identity groups.  What if your child needs challenge courses?  Here again from their “talking points”:

“When challenge courses are eliminated, the challenge-level curriculum will become the default curriculum in each remaining course”
“Students in all classes will be able to participate in the highest levels of academic discourse and will be able to take on more challenging projects”

Are these serious statements?   Only if “equity” defined as “equal outcomes based on identity groups” is your primary goal.   This is a race to the bottom.   The Academic Committee has already begun to discuss “detracking” English and Geometry classes in high school.

It gets worse.  What is planned for the next two years, until 7th and 8th grade middle school challenge courses are eliminated?

  • Push/Increase enrollment in the 7th grade Challenge Pre-Algebra to mirror the demographics of the building
  • Push/Increase enrollment in the 7th grade Challenge Pre AP ELA to mirror the demographics of the building
  • Push/Increase enrollment in the 8th grade Challenge Pre-AP ELA to mirror the demographics of the building

How exactly will that be done?  Students will be placed in challenge classes not solely based on their individual abilities and needs, but also based on their “demographics”.   This is how they describe their plan:

  • How can we get the population of the course to look like the population of the building?
          – Adjust cut scores to reflect the demographic and auto populate schedules for kids to meet criteria

This is Critical Race Theory in action.

Francis Howell Families does not support “equity” in the meaning that Dr. Hoven demonstrates by his actions.
We support equal opportunity:  all students should be challenged to achieve as unique individuals, whether they need remedial support or more challenging material.   We believe in this for all students, regardless of the particular identity group that Dr. Hoven decides to divide them into.  We believe in Academic Excellence for all students.