Prior to the 2006-2007, placement for Long Beach High School students in honors and college-level courses was often determined by a series of prerequisite courses, test averages, and teacher recommendations. Many of these courses had contracts for students to sign that detailed the requirements for remaining in an honors class, as well as the processes for being removed from an honors class. This proved daunting to many students. As a result, there was very little student movement from one track to another.
In the 2006-2007 school year, Long Beach High School shifted to course programming via self-selection. Self-selection provided access and opportunities for all students to access a diverse array of courses including college level (IB, AP, SUPA, and college affiliated) courses, electives, music and arts, and the core curriculum courses. However, there remained disparities in student placement and performance with self-selection. More affluent students tended to end up in the higher-level courses, and the students from economically disadvantaged families tended to select lower-level courses. This happened regardless of prior test scores. To bring attention to this, district administrators studied all students who earned a 3 or a 4 on the NYS Math Assessments to see what math class they took as a 9th grader. They found stark correlations between socioeconomic status and course level selected.
Therefore, to further support students toward accessing more rigorous coursework and to ensure a challenging learning environment and mastery level expectations for all students, the high school began creating heterogeneously grouped (mixed ability) classes. Ninth grade students in English were grouped heterogeneously, along with a low class size (twenty-two students), and they were co-taught by an English teacher and a reading or special education teacher. In preparation for the shift, the teaching staff received training through workshops, consultants, and through their common planning periods. Today, the tenth grade English classes are heterogeneously grouped, as well as the ninth and tenth grade social studies classes.
The de-tracking initiative continues to be supported through ongoing revisions of curriculum and through quarterly and formative assessments at the high school, as well as through a move to heterogeneous grouping in the district’s middle school. During the years immediately following the de-tracking initiative, Long Beach High School saw a 54% decrease in student suspensions, teachers and students reported a tremendous increase in the writing demands of the curriculum, and the school has seen an increase in graduation rate, Regents Diploma rate, Advanced Regents diploma rate, and the number of students challenging themselves in honors, AP, IB, and college level courses.