School Committee Discusses Middle School Honors Plans

By Michael Coughlin Jr.

 During its regular meeting last week, the Revere School Committee discussed planning for the potential implementation of separate honors-level classes at the district’s middle schools.

Back in January, the school committee voted in favor of a motion to “have a separate class for honors level for both middle school and high school core classes for the 2024-25 school year,” per the January 16th regular meeting minutes.

The abovementioned decision came after a lengthy public speaking portion during the January meeting, during which several community members, such as educators, parents, and students, spoke in favor of bringing back separate honors-level classes.

Superintendent of Schools Dianne Kelly told the Revere Journal in January that the honors program changed with the introduction of detracking in 2020.

According to Kelly’s comments to the Revere Journal this winter, detracking removed honors at the middle school level, and kids are now evaluated using a standards-based grading system that the district’s elementary schools use.

Months have passed since the decision to reintroduce these separate honors classes, and Kelly has returned to the school committee with an update.

Specifically, Kelly presented a list of needs and challenges from middle school principals regarding what it would take to bring separate honors classes to the middle schools.

First, Kelly spoke about what was described as a “budget item” in that there is a need for four more teachers at each of the three schools.

There is also a request for $30,000 — $10,000 per school — for PowerSchool Consultant to help with scheduling.

In addition to the needs presented above, challenges were also discussed. Kelly indicated that the Susan B. Anthony Middle School and Rumney Marsh Academy use a team structure, meaning that certain groups of teachers have certain groups of kids.

“They’re not sure if they’ll still be able to maintain that. Their hope is with the four additional spots, they’ll be able to, but they won’t know that until they get deeper into the scheduling process,” said Kelly.

“They’re worried that the loss of the team model — if they’re not able to maintain it will have repercussions because you won’t have the same five teachers dealing with the same group of kids,” she added.

Another challenge discussed concerned classes such as theme classes. “Because the restrictions that’ll be placed on — if a student is in a particular honors section, they may be unable to select their preferred elective, in which case they would be assigned into something else,” said Kelly.

Following the presentation, the committee’s Vice Chair, Jacqueline Monterroso, asked if the funding for the four positions at the three schools would come from this year’s or next year’s budget. Kelly responded that it would come from next year’s budget.

Committee Member Anthony Mattera asked if honors classes would be offered for grades 6-12. Kelly emphasized that the current conversation was centered on the middle school—grades 6-8.

“That was what they heard was the command of the committee. That there be honors classes, six, seven, and eight in the four content areas of English, math, science, and social studies,” said Kelly.

In a follow-up to Kelly, Mattera spoke about how he had taught at the middle school level, where he had four classes, one of which was designated as an honors class.

“If you have four classes, you designate one as an honors class, so I don’t see where the logistics are out of whack here,” said Mattera. 

In response, Kelly indicated that staffing is different and that hiring positions like social workers and school psychologists to help kids socially and emotionally has been a priority recently.

“In terms of scheduling, that creates more of a restriction within what the kids are able to take,” said Kelly.

After Kelly’s response to Mattera, some confusion arose during the meeting when she attempted to clarify that honors classes at the middle schools are slated to be implemented next year only in grades seven and eight.

However, Committee Member Anthony Caggiano mentioned that it was discussed but not voted on at the last meeting and that the original motion approved in January included grade six.

As the conversation progressed, Mayor Patrick Keefe preached patience in implementing honors classes again.

Keefe said he has spoken with educators, saying, “They don’t feel that it’s attainable as quickly as we’d like to see it happen. I think we need to understand that sometimes compromise needs to happen.”

“So if we’re able to get it in the high school and if we’re able to get it partially in the middle schools, we have to accept that because we can’t just force this. If we can’t get the staff, we can’t do it,” he added.

Kelly echoed Keefe and said, “It’s about the staffing, but it’s about all of the other work that’s been put into place over 10 years that we don’t want to see go away entirely.”

Caggiano said he spoke with administrators from other locations, who offered a different perspective: offering these classes in September should not be an issue.

“We voted on it. There’s 60 parents and students that feel that we should have it in September, so I’m not going to flip-flop on this. This is what we voted on, and we will see where we are by September,” said Caggiano.

Kelly responded to Caggiano and, in part, said, “I have three middle school principals right now who are feverishly texting me as we have this meeting, trying to express how impossible they feel the position is that you’ve placed them in.”

Later in the discussion, Kelly also confirmed that the aforementioned needs were based on implementing separate honors classes for grades seven and eight and theorized that the needs might be more with sixth grade included.

Eventually, Monterroso moved to “prioritize the addition of 12 additional teachers for grades seven and eight—core content—and the $30,000 in cost for PowerSchool to be prioritized for the fiscal year 2025 budget,” which was seconded.

The motion brought forth more discussion where Committee Member John Kingston questioned the pushback, saying, “I just want people to understand. We did this four years ago; it’s not like it’s reinventing; we’re not going to Mars.”

After some more discussion, Monterroso’s motion was finally voted on and passed by a vote of 5-1.

Following the abovementioned vote, Monterroso made a separate motion to postpone honors implementation in the sixth grade, which was seconded and passed by a vote of 5-1.

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