MMSD board votes against universal earned honors program

MADISON, Wis. — When ninth and tenth graders in the Madison Metropolitan School District go to make their schedule for the 2023-2024 school year, they’ll still have the option to enroll in honors courses.  The lack of change comes after the district’s school board on Monday voted against implementing a universal earned honors program.

For more than an hour on Monday night, current and former MMSD staff members, as well as parents of MMSD students, stood in front of the board to voice their concerns over the possible change in curriculum.

The proposal came earlier in the fall semester when administrators found longstanding racial disparities within the current honors program. In turn, the suggestion was made to replace the current standalone honors program with a universal earned honors system.

The universal earned honors system is essentially one standard class for a particular subject, with students having the option to complete extra or more difficult assignments to earn an honors designation. The goal of the universal system focuses on creating more diverse experiences by bringing honors programming to general education classrooms.

But for Liz Lauer and many other MMSD parents, the proposal raised questions over how the change would impact current honors students.

“I feel like the answer still out there is, who’s benefitting?” Lauer said. “My student isn’t, and I don’t feel like [kids who don’t want to be in those classes are] either. So I just feel like we need to start doing deeper work to get to the answer.”

Following the public comment period, and after a lengthy discussion by the school board, members ultimately voted 4-3 to not replace current standalone honors classes next school year. Instead, members unanimously voted for the district to continue its work toward expanding the earned honors program.