Course Leveling Changes
BY SOPHIA SAGHIR '24
Acton-Boxborough Regional High School offers multi-level courses in the five academic departments: English, History, World Language, Math, and Science. Currently, the levels offered are H/AP (Honors or AP), AE (Accelerated/Enriched), CP (College Prep), CP1 (College Prep 1), and unleveled. However, some departments are planning to cut down on these courses. The current plan is to remove the AE level from some classes, with more ongoing changes pending for future years.
In the fall of 2021, the Central Office Administration and the high school leadership team, including the principal, department leaders, and counselors, discussed course levels at the high school on the basis of both teacher and student feedback, as well as academic performance data. They then introduced this idea to high school students in an assembly in April. The four-year proposed plan for the 2023-24 school year creates a level that meets in the middle, where the difficulty of the class seeks to cater to CP and AE level students alike, and an honors level for most departments, with some exceptions.
Although this change may seem sudden, it is not; the process of reducing levels has been ongoing since the 1990s. The ABRHS English department has featured classes with reduced levels since the mid-1990s; the most recent change took place in 2010 for senior classes. In the 2021-22 school year, the World Language department offered reduced levels for ninth graders, and this year, has extended this change for the rest of the class of 2025 as the progression through World Language education continues. Moreover, there were a number of reduced level classes across the school in the 2022-23 school year, gradually preparing our school for the shift that we are about to experience.
Over the last three school years, approximately sixty percent of students in their senior surveys responded that they feel that students are sometimes excluded or discriminated against because of the level of courses that they take. One senior described that “the competition academically is toxic. You feel shamed if you take anything but AP or honors classes, and honestly I have felt embarrassed for taking CP classes.” Additionally, demographic data revealed that the levels were starkly split by race, economic status, and learning disabilities. All these factors were instrumental in urging administrators to make a change to help benefit students, and they knew that they needed the system to change significantly.
The committee members emphasize that through these changes, “students will have increased access, opportunities, and choice to study advanced level coursework” and that they will also “have access to a broader range of learning and social interactions that will better prepare them for today’s world.” Their goal is to bridge the gap between the levels and to build a stronger ABRHS community, and tthey have found that this is the most effective way to be fair and equitable for all students.
Although this current plan has been developed for the 2023-24 school year, this proposition will be closely monitored and likely evolve with further feedback.