When Tha Cung looked over his sixth-grade class schedule, he took notice of the math block. He had been placed in an advanced class.
“I didn’t know ‘honors’ even existed,” he said.
Tha was little when his family immigrated from Myanmar and, for much of his time in Dallas schools, he took courses designed for children who are learning English. In fifth grade, his standardized test scores showed he was a strong math student — someone who should be challenged with honors classes in middle school.
Under the Dallas school system’s policy, Tha’s parents didn’t need to sign him up for advanced math. A teacher or counselor didn’t have to recommend him, either. In many schools, those are the hoops a student must get through to join honors classes. But Tha was automatically placed in the advanced course because of his scores on Texas’ STAAR test.
A version of this approach will soon be replicated statewide as part of an effort to remove barriers that can stand between bright students and rigorous courses. Instead of having families opt in to advanced math, they are instead given the choice to opt out.