Come second semester of her freshman year at
Then, to her delight, she learned that she had earned a spot in the school’s brand-new freshman honors track, where all of the students will be like her—diligent and able to move at a fast pace.
“More challenge makes you think,”
As far as most school staff can remember, there has never been a freshman honors’ track at Marshall, a chronically low-performing high school, says Keith Foley, a former long-time principal at Lane Tech High School on the North Side who was brought to Marshall to mentor new Principal Juan Gardner.
One of the goals of High School Transformation is to make schools like
“We want to get the students who just missed getting into Whitney Young,” Foley says.
But without accelerating the curriculum for those students who are doing well, school officials are dubious that high-performers will decide to attend the school. To that end, about 40 students were chosen for the honors track, based on teacher recommendations. Foley says school administrators didn’t want to base the selection solely on test scores, because they wanted to get a sense of which students are motivated yet not necessarily top-scoring.
To create the track, administrators shifted classes around so it did not cost any additional money.
Another goal of the track, says Foley, is to get these freshmen ready for Advanced Placement classes their senior year. Since 1996, the district has made a push to create more AP classes in all high schools.
In addition to an accelerated curriculum, Foley says honors students will get treated to some extras. For example, he took students on a field trip to Lane, a selective enrollment school, to show them the structure and academic rigor that is needed to really compete with the district’s top students. Foley hopes seeing these classes in action will inspire
The other hope is that the honors track becomes a haven for keeping students focused. By the end of freshmen year, nearly 65 percent of
Marlon Sykes says he can see how the environment at
“They tell jokes and get in and out of their chairs,” says Sykes, who, like his dad and half-brothers, came to
Like Sykes, several of the freshmen chosen to be in the honors classes are athletes, underscoring the fact that
Both say they wanted to go to other high schools. But Clay’s mother didn’t want her to travel to Lindblom or King, two selective schools on the South Side.
Both young women say that when they showed up at
Clay says she sympathizes with some of her peers, who seem to bring their problems from home to school. But she’s glad to be separated from them in the classroom.
“They are a little goofy,” she says. “But as long as I can set my priorities straight and do my work, I’ll be okay.”
Durham agrees. She says getting placed in the honors classes gives her a boost of confidence.
“It is just like my mother says—no matter what school I am at, I will do good,” she says.