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    9th Grade ELA Honors-Core Class Plan
    Posted on 06/21/2018
    BALLARD HIGH SCHOOL 9TH GRADE HONORS-CORE CLASS PLANBHS 9th Grade Honors-Core Class Plan 2018  pdf icon

    BHS 9th Grade Honors-Core Class 2018 FAQ pdf icon

    Summary of the Plan

    Ballard serves a wide variety of learners. Often the assumption is that the honors courses are populated with students who are all at the same level. But in reality, there is a wide array of learning needs in honors classes, including ELL and special education students. Consequently, an honors course demands as much differentiation as any other.

    In the same vein, many core classes serve a wide range of learners. Some students opt for these classes because they don’t believe they can meet the challenge of an honors class, or because they have never had the opportunity to excel. There is very little upward movement to honors classes from the core track. However, we work with core students on a daily basis and know they are capable of meeting high expectations.

    In addition, this split between core and honors results in de facto racial segregation in our classrooms, and in this system, all of our students miss out on the value of engaging with diverse perspectives.

    With support from the Ballard staff and administration, the English Language Arts department has created a 9th-grade class that grants all students the opportunity to earn honors-level credit. Should any student feel that the demands of the Honors curriculum are too great, they may opt-out and then earn core credit for the class. We believe—and research supports this belief—that an inclusive, diverse class, provides a better education for all students.



    We will be preparing all students for advanced classes in 10th, 11th, and 12th grade. The curriculum will not be “watered down” or modified in such a way that students are at a disadvantage in later years.

    The curriculum will focus on developing a safe and engaging, collaborative classroom, one that fosters critical thinking and academic growth. We will deepen and increase the rigor of the curriculum, challenging students to develop, practice, and master a wide range of skills.

    This means we will be deliberate about providing multiple access points to the curriculum, such as finding ways to engage reluctant learners, providing student choice when appropriate, implementing project-based learning, and asking students to develop a wide range of products to show their learning. Ultimately, we want to add value to every student’s experience—providing scaffolding with difficult texts and assessments, while challenging students to tackle increasingly complex assignments. Scaffolding, in this context, refers to a variety of instructional techniques used to move students progressively towards stronger understanding, and ultimately greater independence in the learning process.


    We have secured the assistance of Dr. Sheila Valencia, a literacy specialist and researcher at the UW School of Education to consult with us on differentiation and to help us develop reading support strategies.

    Additionally, lead teachers will be attending a training this summer through the UW’s Robinson Center, on differentiating instruction in diverse, advanced classes. The course—Differentiation: Secondary School Highly Capable Programming—pledges that:

    …Teachers will learn instructional strategies that they can incorporate into their advanced classes that will differentiate according to students’ readiness, interests, and learning profiles. Special attention will be given to addressing the needs of the whole student, including the social and emotional needs of adolescents.

    We will continue to research best practices, in developing meaningful curriculum for all learners and will contact other experts to assist us as the need arises.

    Our administration is committed to supporting collaboration among teachers on the team so that we can make this change beneficial for all learners.


    Our primary goal is to create a richer 9th-grade curriculum that engages and benefits all ability levels. Studies over the past thirty years, that note the detrimental effects of ability­level tracking, point-out the institutionalized racism that plagues our school system and further widens the opportunity gap.

    A recent study found Seattle Public Schools has the fifth widest achievement gap of all school districts in the country, and the widest gap in the state. One way we can start to alleviate this inequity is to create heterogeneous classrooms, which research shows are beneficial for all students.

    One study out of Teachers College, Columbia University reports, “Researchers have documented that students’ exposure to other students who are different from themselves and the novel ideas and challenges that such exposure brings leads to improved cognitive skills, including critical thinking and problem solving” (Amy Stuart Wells, Lauren Fox, and Diana Cordova-Cobo, 2016).

    Similarly, Beth Rubin's article, "Tracking and Detracking" (2006), states, "A number of recent studies have found positive results for [targeted, honors­for­all] detracking and the heterogeneous grouping that it creates” (Cooper, 1996; Klingner, Vaughn, & Schumm, 1998; Mehan & Hubbard, 1999; Mehan, Hubbard, & Villanueva, 1994; Rothenberg, McDermott, & Martin, 1998).


    Resources teachers are using to help them plan include (but are not limited to) the following:

    Detracking for Excellence and Equity by Carol Corbett Burris and Delia T. Garrity

    Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students by Zaretta Hammond

    Working for Equity in Heterogeneous Classrooms by Elizabeth G. Cohen and Rachel A. Lotan, eds

    Designing Groupwork: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom by Elizabeth Cohen

    • Differentiation in Practice: A Resource Guide for Differentiating Curriculum, Grades 9­-12 by Carol Ann Tomlinson