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The decision is based on research from Association for Middle Level Education.

PMG FILE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Students assembled in the gym at Neil Armstrong Middle School.Neil Armstrong Middle School will continue to not offer honors courses this upcoming school year.

During a presentation to the Forest Grove school board Monday, Aug 8, principal Juliana Kelly said a trial run of the school's approach last school year left some skeptical parents "pleasantly surprised."

"We are continuing to learn how to differentiate within a classroom with all levels," Kelly said. "And while there are concerns about having multiple levels in one room, there is a lot of data saying it is beneficial for all kids."

According to data from the Oregon Department of Education from Neil Armstrong Middle School from 2020-21, 14% of 859 students have disabilities, while 42% are currently or were previously learning English at school.

Superintendent David Parker said the policy is in line with broader district practices, in which students with disabilities and English language learners spend at least 80% of their days in core classes with their peers.

"We've got to raise expectations for all students," Parker said. "You plan for the kids who already know, and you plan for the kids who aren't going to know it, and between the two of those, you're already handling the kids who are in the middle."

According to data from standardized tests, Kelly presented that in spring 2022, 52% of seventh-grade students and 46% of eighth-grade students were below benchmark and in need of specialized intervention for reading skills.

Board President Mark Everett, previously a principal at Banks High School, said he opposed the decision to not have separate honors courses because it's asking too much of teachers to engage and challenge a wide range of academic levels in the same classroom.

"I have a genuine concern, not the teacher's desire or willingness to meet all levels in each classroom, but about whether they can actually do it," Everett said. "It's just so hard now. So many things have changed in education in last five to six years. I'm hopeful it can happen. I just see it as a really, really tough thing to do."

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