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Let’s listen first

The fury over Harwood Union's revamping of how it offers courses to ninth- graders may well be a tempest in a teapot.

Last month Harwood administrators told students, school board members and staff about a plan to make ninth-grade classes more heterogeneous and to stop offering two-tiered classes to ninth-graders.

That means no more honors and regular classes for ninth-graders. It does not mean no more honors and AP classes for 10th-, 11th- and 12-graders.

The issue has students and parents in an uproar, but perhaps we should hear out the trained professionals whose jobs it is figure out how kids best learn. If pedagogy shows that ninth-graders learn best in heterogeneous groups and if many schools in Vermont have gone to single-tiered classes for ninth-graders, are we so sure our ninth-graders need differentiated classes?

To assert, as have some, that this will mean Harwood students no longer excel and get into "top colleges" is hogwash. To even use the phrase "top colleges" is classist, elitist and insulting.

Does this mean that the student who is the first in their family to go to college and attends something other than a "top college" has somehow been failed by their school and their community? Does this mean that someone who attends a state college and goes on to be successful in their career and community has been failed by their school?

That's ridiculous.

Higher education is defined as much by what the student brings to it as it is by the institution, so let's not get hung up on the issue of "top colleges" when we're considering whether ninth-graders should be separated into two groups or all learn together.

Instead, let's give the people we pay to educate the children a chance to explain the science and their reasoning. They are the professionals. This is their job. Let's hear them out.

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