• Another Nassau County middle school quietly eliminates advanced classes

    By: Jenna Bourne , Action News Jax

    Updated:

    Callahan Middle School quietly eliminated its advanced classes this school year, without notifying parents.

    It’s a strategy to raise school ratings, according to Mark Durham, the Nassau County School District’s executive director of curriculum, instruction and school improvement.

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    Action News Jax reported earlier this month that Yulee Middle School cut more than half its advanced classes.

    Now, Action News Jax has learned that Callahan Middle took it a step further, eliminating all advanced classes.

    Callahan Middle is still offering algebra I for high school credit to certain students who scored high on their Florida Standards Assessments.

    Durham said it’s about trying to turn B-grade schools into A-grade schools.

    In order to do that, B-grade schools Yulee Middle and Callahan Middle have to show that students’ grades and test scores are improving.

    So, Callahan Middle eliminated courses titled “advanced,” instead putting students of all abilities in the same classrooms, with the intention of teaching to the higher standard.

    At the Nassau County School Board meeting on Aug. 9, ninth-grade student Brianna English told the board she is worried her younger sister will not be challenged.

    “I want her to be in the advanced classes that she deserves to be in,” said Brianna. “I am going into ninth grade this year and I’m in honors and AP classes. And I got to those classes because I took the advanced classes that I got, to get to that level.”

    Dr. Kathy Burns, the superintendent of the Nassau County School District, addressed complaints from Yulee Middle School parents at that meeting.

    “There should have been more communication with you as parents and family members. We’re doing something similar in Callahan Middle School. The foundation was laid, the conversations were held, the meetings were held in advance and they were better prepared,” said Burns.

    But Durham told Action News Jax there were no meetings or notifications for Callahan Middle parents either.

    Durham told Action News Jax on Monday that everyone at the school district was too busy “keeping kids safe” to do an interview. 

    Durham then said he does not think the news media is the right venue for this information.

    In an email earlier this month, Durham told Acton News Jax, “A couple of our middle schools, YMS included, have been ‘B’ schools for the past few years. We have given their principals some discretion, in scheduling and other matters, to implement innovative and research based practices in an effort to raise the academic achievement levels for ALL students.

    "We believe, and there is a body of research to support, that mixed ability classrooms are what’s best for students. We are confident in the abilities of our teachers to differentiate instruction in the classroom to meet the needs of all students.”

    Both Callahan and Yulee middle schools are hosting Q&A sessions for parents this week about the changes; Durham said the media will not be allowed inside.

    Duval, St. Johns and Clay County school districts told Action News Jax they are not considering cutting advanced classes.

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