Don’t get us wrong: We’ve got nothing but sympathy for the Payson School Board. What a job they’ve got: Like teaching alligators to use salad forks.
Still, the dwindling of advanced classes at the high school ought to sound alarm bells audible over the snapping of gator jaws. For the first time in years, the high school isn’t offering calculus. Moreover, the number of advanced placement classes has waned.
Granted, the state’s lopsided ranking system puts a lot more weight on the performance of the weakest students than on the needs of the strongest students. So we understand the need to boost student test scores given the penalties the district will face if it doesn’t.
But we think the district will make a tragic error if it fails to also meet the needs of the best, hardest-working students. Many of the most rigorous colleges won’t even consider an application for a student without calculus — and many prefer students with an adequate foundation in a foreign language. Moreover, advanced placement classes not only give students a grasp of the rigors of a college course — they help low-income students cut college costs.
So we hope the high school will not let this alarming trend continue. If that means holding a class for six students who show up — so be it. In itself, the struggle to round up enough advanced students for a full class offers a sad commentary on the rigors of the curriculum and the quality of the academic counseling. But it’s no excuse for neglecting the needs of students ready and willing to sign up.
After all, the state and the schools have made a moral and financial commitment to meeting the needs of students with disabilities and special challenges. We applaud that commitment. But we think the schools — and the state — have the same obligation to the top students. We should not penalize them by denying them necessary classes just because they’re smart enough to muddle through even if the system ignores their needs.
Now, we understand: The school board’s swamp has filled up with alligators these days — all grinning like crazy, with no use for forks or salad plates, for that matter. The board’s been throwing out frozen chickens as fast as they can move and just watching the water roil. Nonetheless, we hope the board will move the dismaying lack of necessary classes for our best students to the top of its priority list.