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Do combined courses for all students fail the students they are designed to help?

If OPRF were to offer only combined courses for all freshmen to take in English, history, and biology, would that help students who previously would have taken basic or college prep courses? Evanston Township High School decided to try this approach, starting in the 2012-13 school year. After four years, Evanston reported results.

The students who would previously been offered a course at the “regular” or “mixed-regular” level (the lower two levels) fared substantially worse in the combined courses than the students who would have been offered a course at the ‘mixed-honors” or “honors” levels (the higher two levels).


Data from four years (2012-13 to 2015-16 school years) for English and biology. Data from three school years (2013-14 to 2015-16 school years) for biology. Source: Report on Student Achievement & Restructured Freshman Year, Evanston Township High School

In fact, more than half of the students who would have been on the lower two tracks received grades of D or F in the new freshman English and history courses—51% of students in English and 56% of students in history. For biology, 49% of students who would have been on the lowest two tracks received grades of D or F. For students on the higher two tracks, only 12% received these low grades in English, 11% in history, and 9% in biology.


One should ask whether the best way for OPRF to close the opportunity gap of students in high school is by ignoring the achievement gap of students when they enter high school.






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