Why are we Restructuring?

Increasing access to a more rigorous curriculum increases achievement, especially when student voice, empowerment, and passions are celebrated.

Providing more students with access to honors-level experiences from the moment they enter our school will provide them with the opportunity to achieve at the highest levels throughout high school.

The landscape of college admissions and the skills that college and industries are looking for has greatly changed over the course of the last five years. Communication, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, citizenship, character, and perseverance are core to future success. Thousands of students across the country exit courses with the same achievement data and grades that used to be the marker for college admittance and job success. Opportunities to engage in deep dives, build portfolios of projects and experiences, and demonstrate their impact on the larger community sets students apart from their peers in the application process, more so than grades. As such, we have restructured the high school courses to increase these opportunities for all students, while building critical academic skills through a rigorous curriculum.

Eliminating course levels will not lessen the rigorous experience and expectations. Instead, it will create a culture in which as many students as possible will have the chance to develop their full potential and are best prepared for post-high school success.

How Many/What Level III Courses Existed in 2016-2017? 9

  • Math Applications

  • Double Block Algebra

  • Geometry

  • Algebra II

  • Communication Skills

  • Language and Literature

  • American Literature

  • World History

  • US History

What Level III Courses/Transition Pathways Exist Now? 

  • Math Applications - Competency Based Math 1

  • Math Applications - Competency Based Math II

  • Essentials of Finance

  • Communication Skills Lang and Lit

  • Communication Skills Amer Lit

  • Communication Skills for the Workplace

  • Community Competencies

  • Current Events

  • Daily Living: Self Determination and Independent Living

  • Computer Applications and Safety

How Many/What Honors Courses Existed in 2016-2017? 7

  • Geometry

  • Algebra II

  • Precalculus

  • Biology

  • Chemistry

  • Language and Literature

  • American Literature

What Honors Courses Exist Now?

  • Geometry

  • Algebra II

  • Precalculus

  • Biology

  • Chemistry

What Honors Designations Existed in 2016-2017?

  • British Literature

What Honors Designations Have Been Added? 7

  • Language and Literature

  • American Studies

  • American Literature

  • World Literature I

  • World Literature II

  • US History

  • World History

What does the restructuring look like?

Students will no longer be separated into class levels of college preparatory or honors in English. Social Studies has not offered an honors level course for at least 21 years. In both disciplines, students will be provided a high-level rigorous curriculum with the additional opportunity to earn an honors-level distinction. Level III courses have been reorganized as transition pathways courses. The courses that were once known as Conceptual Chemistry and Conceptual Physics will continue to be offered to align with the math content progression for some students. These courses are labeled 527 Chemistry and 542 Physics. Additional courses for students in transition pathways have been added and will be expanded.

In these courses, students will engage in rich discourse, rigorous and engaging courses of studies, opportunities to apply what they learned to both assessments and projects, and lessons and practice designed for their specific and individualized needs.

How Significant Are the Changes?

We have created a chart of our courses beginning with the 2016-2017 school year and ending with 2024 so that you may see the shifts. You will note that not all honors or conceptual courses have been or will be eliminated in this time frame. You will also note that courses that previously did not offer honors now include honors designations. As such, we have expanded opportunities for students based on our data and student needs.

2016-2024 Course Structures


Will this change remove opportunities for students who were in all honors courses or who were previously in all lower-level courses?

We are confident that our approach to the restructuring rollout will not remove opportunities for students who were in traditional honors classes leading up to the 2021-2022 school year. Maintaining the rigor of curricular programming, while supporting the social emotional needs of our students, frames our focus. Importantly, not only does this shift not remove opportunities for those in honors, it increases opportunities for all students. Evidence shows that increasing access to honors-level content can have the effect of raising achievement for all students, including higher-performing students.

As noted earlier, students in these courses will have the opportunity to engage in passion and interest-based learning that will set them apart from their peers with whom they are competing for college and career opportunities. Students will pitch a proposal for their project at the start of the course, they will outline touchpoints and expectations, and teachers will approve or request refinement to the proposal. Students will be provided expectations and teachers will be available for support and guidance. Work will occur during adn beyond the school day, as is consistent with honor’s level courses. Teacher will review the final project at the end of the course according to the expectations set and will determine if honor’s designation has been achieved. With the option of earning honors-level distinction open to all, more students will have the opportunity to pursue their individual interests and passion. If you are interested in understanding some of the projects submitted this year, please review our April 1 Forum.

Students who were previously in all lower-level courses will gain increased access to the core curriculum, with any personalized supports necessary. As such, their opportunities will increase. Evidence from our current students indicates an average increase of 30% on proficiencies, as compared to their performance in previous level three courses.

Will this change result in a watered-down curriculum?

No. All of the core courses that are part of this change will provide honors-level content. Every student in classes with honors designation will begin with the chance to earn the honors-level distinction. Students who are not ready to achieve an honors-level distinction will receive course content personalized to their needs.

Will it be too fast for some students and too slow for others?

Our internal data shows that this has not been the case for courses that are already restructured at the high school. Social Studies, health, the arts, computer science, business education, etc., have never been categorized as college prep or honors; they have always had students of mixed abilities. Nevertheless, we have spent years providing professional development to teachers and developing additional supports for students, to ensure that we meet the needs of all learners through Universal Design for Learning. Specially designed instruction through a co-teaching model with special educators who have content expertise is also provided for some students, as determined by their IEP teams.

Is it the assumption that all students will attend two or four-year colleges?

No. While college is the right choice for many Barrington students, a variety of other options such as technical education, skill-based certifications, entrepreneurial opportunities, the military, and so on, are all a part of our student choice. Promoting academic achievement in high school will help all students reach their post-high school goals, no matter what path they pursue.

For students who are interested in attending college, we have built additional options for them to take college courses at no cost through the Advanced Course Network, as well as to achieve college credits through an expansive list of Advanced Placement and Early Enrollment Program (EEP) courses.

Will Math and Science be Restructured?

To some extent, math and science courses have already been restructured.


  • Reconfigured the double block of Algebra I to allow all students to attend Algebra I with the option of a Skills Block.

  • Removed the separate trigonometry class for students taking college preparatory precalculus to increase student access to electives.

  • Added additional courses for students in the transition pathway.


  • Removed the conceptual Biology course to ensure all students had access to grade-level standards and high expectations.

Will Math and Science be Restructured Even Further?

At this time, we do not have any further plans to change the levels in math or science. We are in the process of developing additional courses for students in the transition program. For at least the next three to five years, we will focus on ensuring that the changes in English and Social Studies are fully implemented, meeting the requirements for Right to Read, implementing the newly legislated curriculum, and examining our K-12 math and science progressions. In addition, we are continuing our professional learning on Universal Design for Learning, Instruction and Culturally Responsive Practices. As such, there will be no additional level restructuring during this time.

How Are You Planning the Next Three to Five Years?

We are being extremely deliberate with the research, planning, and implementation. We took the last several years to evaluate the entire Social Studies and English curricula. Course enrollment trends, demographic data, benchmark assessment data, as well as feedback from student XQ focus groups, told us that more students are ready for an honors challenge. After analyzing the results from our study, we realized the need to provide as many students as possible with a rigorous, challenging curriculum.

We are taking the next three to five years to roll out the restructuring:

  • 2019-2021: Planning and Professional Development. Teachers and administrators are researching teaching practices, data-driven instruction, culturally responsive teaching, Universal Design for Learning, etc. No change to the curriculum.

  • 2020-2021: Implementation Research. Our teachers evaluated the new math and English curriculums allowable under state legislation. Continued professional development.

  • 2021-2023: Full implementation in ELA and Social Studies. Continued professional development. Implementation of the Right to Read Act.

  • 2023 - 2026: Implementation Research, Monitoring, and Refinement with continued professional development. New Science curriculum by 2025. New Social Studies Standards TBD.

Is this change supported by research?

Yes. Considerable educational research supports the restructuring. Most notably:

  • Grouping students stratifies students by race and socioeconomic status. It also is linked to lower achievement for students in lower levels.

  • Structural barriers created by singleton courses and inaccurate expectations for students exist when courses are leveled. It may appear that students have choice, when in fact, barriers for entry continue to drive decisions.

  • Studies, as well as our internal data, have shown that students assigned to low-ability groups score lower on standardized assessments than if they had been placed in mixed-ability classes.

  • BHS grade data shows that when students are placed in heterogeneous settings, their performance improves.

  • Research, as well as anecdotal evidence, shows that when implemented, equal access is tied to success for all students.

John Hattie’s work (https://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/ )— with an interview specifically around tracking/deleveling (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6czhy6kPpc) has served as a starting point for many of the changes that have been made in Barrington. School-level data matches the patterns that Hattie is pointing out.

A short article on the Opportunity Myth which discusses that most students lack four key drivers to success including access to grade-level instruction and teachers with high expectations for their learning. You can access the full report when you have more time to explore.

This report published by the National Council on Disabilities sums up the research on inclusion (p.37-40). Pg. 41 introduces Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as a framework for inclusion

Cole, C. M., Waldron, N., & Majd, M. (2004). Academic Progress of Students across Inclusive and Traditional Settings. Mental Retardation: A Journal of Practices, Policy and Perspectives, 42(2), 136–144. - This study reports students with disabilities progress in math and ELA inclusive settings versus self-contained settings

Additional Articles and Research





"Accelerating Mathematics Achievement Using Heterogeneous Grouping," by Carol Corbett Burris, Jay P. Heubert, and Henry M. Levin, American Educational Research Journal, Spring 2006. A longitudinal study on providing accelerated mathematics curriculum to all 8th graders in a diverse suburban school district. Performance of high-achieving students showed no statistical difference when compared to their previous homogeneously grouped classes. Additionally, scores on placement and Advanced Placement tests improved over time.

"Accountability, Rigor, and Detracking: Achievement Effects of Embracing a Challenging Curriculum as a Universal Good for All Students,"by Carol Corbett Burris, Teachers College Record, March 2008.

"Alternative Approaches to the Politics of Detracking,"by Kevin Welner and Carol Corbett Burris, Theory Into Practice, Winter 2006

“Choosing Tracks: ‘Freedom of Choice’ in Detracking Schools,” by Susan Yonezawa, Amy Stuart Wells, and Irene Serna, American Educational Research Journal, Spring 2002.

“Detracked--and Going Strong,” by Peter Bavis, Phi Delta Kappan, Nov. 28, 2016. Highlights detracking Evanston Township High School. Positive outcomes include noticeable gains in ACT scores across all demographic groups.

"Detracking: The Social Construction of Ability, Cultural Politics, and Resistance to Reform,"by Jeannie Oakes, Amy Stuart Wells, Makeba Jones, and Amanda Datnow, Teachers College Record, Spring 1997.

"Does Educational Tracking Affect Performance and Inequality? Differences-in-Differences Evidence Across Countries," by Eric A. Hanushek and Ludger Wößmann, National Bureau of Economic Research, February 2005. Analysis of different tracking arrangements in 20 international institutions. Results suggest tracking is linked to lower overall performance and an increase in inequity.

"Four Decades of Research on the Effects of Detracking Reform: Where Do We Stand? A Systematic Review of the Evidence," by Ning Rui, Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine, 2009. A meta-analysis of 15 studies found that detracking consistently demonstrated positive effects on low-ability achievement with no measurable effects on average- to high-ability student achievement.

Guidance from the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP)

"Honoring All Learners: The Case for Embedded Honors in Heterogeneous English Language Arts Classrooms," by David Nurenberg, English Education, October 2016.

“Matchmaking: The Dynamics of High School Tracking,” by Jeannie Oakes and Gretchen Guiton, American Educational Research Journal, Spring 1995. Cornerstone article in detracking literature. A three-year longitudinal study of detracking in 10 racially and socio-economically diverse high schools. Found that detracking efforts confront and should attend to assumptions about power, control, and legitimacy in schools that manifest in how students are viewed as learners.

“Readiness for College: The Role of Noncognitive Factors and Context,” by Jenny Nagaoka, Camille A. Farrington, Melissa Roderick, Elaine Allensworth, Tasha Seneca Keyes, David W. Johnson, and Nicole O. Beechum, VUE, Fall 2013.

"Sustained Inquiry in Education: Lessons from Skill Grouping and Class Size,"by Frederick Mosteller, Richard J. Light, and Jason A. Sachs, Harvard Educational Review, Winter 1996. Analysis of literature found a lack of available evidence to support the current form of tracking in U.S. schools.

"Tracking Detracking: Sorting through the Dilemmas and Possibilities of Detracking in Practice,"by Beth C. Rubin and Pedro A. Noguera, Equity & Excellence in Education, 2004.

"Whole-School Detracking: A Strategy for Equity and Excellence,"by Doris Alvarez and Hugh Mehan, Theory Into Practice, Winter 2006.

Additional Links


- https://www.nassp.org/tracking-and-ability-grouping-in-middle-level-and-high-schools/


- brookings.edu/research/the-resurgence-of-ability-grouping-and-persistence-of-tracking/

- This is a sample of the research currently in process: https://www.edworkingpapers.com/ai19-65