High School to begin eliminating college preparatory courses

Marblehead High School will begin eliminating College Prep Courses (CP2) begin in the 2023-2024 school year. Photo by Libby O'Neill

Starting in the 2023-24 school year, Marblehead High School will begin a phased approach to eliminating College Preparatory 2 (CP2) courses in order to provide a more equitable learning environment for all students. 

The announcement of eliminating these courses came at a School Committee meeting on May 18, when Marblehead High School Principal Dan Bauer presented the school’s approach.

“When you really drill down to some of the lower levels of courses, you’re getting away from the high expectations more for class management and areas that aren’t really pushing students forward,” said Bauer. 

Currently, according to Bauer’s presentation, the high school offers four levels of classes: Advanced Placement (AP), Honors, College Prep courses (CP1), and CP2 courses. The focus of CP1 classes is on providing a strong curriculum to prepare students for college by developing solid reading, writing, and problem-solving skills, while CP2 classes aim to provide support for literacy skills, problem solving, or time management and organizational issues.

Bauer referenced the Massachusetts Education Reform Act, which made the establishment of high standards for all students a requirement with a statewide assessment system that measured progress toward that goal. It also established a system that holds schools and districts accountable for progress toward those standards. 

The main goal of the act, Bauer said, is to “level the playing field” by developing more equitable learning environments for all students. 

He then presented research on what is known as tracking, a method that groups students by “perceived ability, IQ, or achievement levels,” and is mainly used by secondary schools. According to information gathered from the National Association of Secondary Principals (NASSP), those opposed to tracking claim that it is harmful to students in low and middle tracks where a large portion of students are low-income or minorities. They also argue that students are likely able to attain higher achievement in more difficult classes, regardless of ability.

As a result, the NASSP recommends that secondary schools “create a culture of high expectations for all students. Rather than assuming that only some students need preparation for post-secondary education, counsel all students for the possibility that they will seek higher education at some point in their lives.” 

For the 2023-24 school year, CP2 Algebra 1 will be eliminated, with CP2 Algebra 2, 3, Chemistry, and Physics following the following year. 

CP1 English classes were eliminated in the 2021-22 school year and CP1 World Language courses were eliminated in the 2017-18 school year. 

“The Principals Association’s recommendation is really that high achievement is a goal for all students, that we really have a moral servitude to push forward for high standards for all students, and really create a culture of high expectations,” said Bauer.

School Committee Chair Sarah Fox, after the presentation, emphasized the importance of keeping classes at a normal size in order to maximize student achievement when these changes occur.

“The research that I’ve seen is the hallmark of a successful MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Supports) model is implementing the co-top model in conjunction with smaller class sizes. Because, if you’re going to teach multiple levels in one group, you can only do it to so many students,” she said. 

School Committee member Meagan Taylor commended Bauer and his team for putting together the presentation, and said that this process will lead to higher achievement for all Marblehead High School students.

“The differentiation in the classroom and the co-teaching model is really where we’re going to see a huge difference, and that supports all of our students,” Taylor said. “That’s the most important thing, to improve the achievement for all students.”

  • Ryan Vermette is the Item's Marblehead reporter. He graduated from Springfield College in 2021 with a Bachelor's degree in Communications/Sports Journalism. While in school, he wrote multiple sports articles for the school newspaper, the Springfield Student, and joined Essex Media Group in August, 2022. Ryan is a college basketball fanatic and an avid Boston sports fan and in his free time, enjoys video games and Marvel movies.