School district expands AGATE program

POULSBO — The North Kitsap School District will expand opportunities for high achieving students next year, but some parents say more still needs to be done.

Next fall, the district will add an eighth-grade class to the AGATE program, a set of advanced classes available to the top-performing students in grades three through seven.

“Reinstating eighth-grade AGATE in our middle schools is appreciated however it doesn’t go far enough,” said Ron Turley, a parent of three students in the district.

Turley leads a group of parents pushing for the addition of honors courses in eighth, ninth and 10th grades.

Shawn Woodward, the district’s assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, said the AGATE expansion is separate from the honors discussion that has been ongoing with parents this year.

“This would have happened regardless of the honors discussion,” Woodward said. “The AGATE program review that we had done was geared specifically toward our high achieving students. I know that a lot of the parents coming forward wishing we had honors weren’t talking about our highly capable students solely.”

Many parents who want the addition of honors see the classes as preparation for Advanced Placement courses. Advanced Placement courses are available to 11th- and 12th-grade students. Honors classes would be available at the eighth- through 10th-grade levels. The AGATE program is only available to students who are nominated by teachers and parents as “highly capable” and score higher than 95 percent on a placement test.

The district announced in March that it will continue to offer an “honors designation” to students who take on more challenging curricula in regular middle and high school classes. Other changes were also announced, but do not include the addition of full-fledged honors courses.

“We believe we’re doing the right work right now, and it’s going to pay off for our students,” Woodward said.

Woodward said the district will monitor the changes in the AGATE program and continue looking for ways to improve education for high achieving students.

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