BFA to Remove Some Tracking in Courses

BFA to Remove Some Tracking in Courses

Rachel Ledoux, Writer

Next year, Bellows Free Academy will be undergoing a series of changes, from a bell schedule to a new intercom system.  The way some courses are offered at BFA will change as well. 

BFA students currently have three levels for many classes: regular, college-prep and accelerated. This type of grouping, known as tracking, is a way of grouping students together based on academic skill level depending on a subject. For example, BFA offers Algebra, Algebra I and Accelerated Algebra I.  In the 2022-2023 school year, however, the Algebra level will be removed. 

According to John Muldoon, Maple Run Unified School District’s Assistant Superintendent, the decision was made based on the results of a variety of studies. According to Muldoon, results have shown that students do better in classes that challenge their abilities.

“What our local data, [and] federal data, is saying is that when children are put in lower-class tracks, it’s very difficult for them to get out,” Muldoon said.

This is troubling to the school board, Muldoon said.

“We’re really aiming to help get these students on a grade-level track,” Muldoon said.

According to BFA Principal Brett Blanchard, this sort of change is something he is familiar with as a former teacher.

“When I was a teacher, I saw a lot of students thrive in situations where tracking was removed,” Blanchard said.

One aspect of combining levels that Blanchard focused on was the success of students who moved into grade-level classes.

“Putting kids into groups based on their skill level is not helping them,” Blanchard said.  He added, “But, in my experience, when classes are combined, the children who were in the lower-level classes are able to rise up in ability without the class needing to slow down.”

Not only does the district hope this will help students succeed, but the change also aims to solve other problems facing BFA, such as large class sizes and scheduling conflicts.

According to Muldoon, “Tracking imposes on schools this size because it really limits scheduling options.  By eliminating some of our tracking at BFA, we’re able to reduce class sizes.”

When asked about the possibility of accelerated courses being eliminated in the future, Muldoon said it is not going to happen.

“[This is] also connected to the research. Accelerated classes are a big acceleration of learning,” Muldoon said. He added, “We need to offer that to students.”

Overall, in their interviews with The Mercury, both Blanchard and Muldoon focused on the benefits for students when course tracking is cut down. Benefits that they hope will be replicated at BFA next year.

“I feel comfortable saying that, because of the skill and quality of teachers here at BFA, this change will be successful for students,” Muldoon said.