Middle school students losing instructional time

September 19, 2010 

Sean Alford, the school district's chief instructional services officer, determined that top-performing high school students may choose from Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate or college prep courses in history for 11th and 12th grades. Honors offerings in this subject will not be available. Parents took issue with this decision in our local newspapers a while back, lamenting that it removed options. Hilton Head Island High School's top-performing students actually take their first AP social studies course in 10th grade.

Whenever an ambitious move such as this takes hold in our high schools, parents immediately turn to our middle schools asking, "What is being done to best prepare our strongest students for this sequence?"

Hilton Head Island Middle School parents made a plea for gifted and talented groupings for social studies and science at the end of last school year, but their request has been denied. To further fan the flames of frustration, Principal Jim Shirley cut back both social studies and science instruction time for sixth through eighth grades from last year's 70 minutes a day to 45 minutes a day for sixth-grade students. Seventh- and eighth-grade students' social studies and science periods are 90 minutes every other day this school year. If you get your calculator out, you'll see this remains an overall reduction in instruction time.

The district cannot afford to lose the exemplary PASS scores our gifted and talented students bring to the table, and most certainly not those from our Hilton Head and Bluffton cluster schools.

JoAnn Orischak

Hilton Head Island

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