New accelerated course level allows students to “choose your path”

The addition of a third academic level to core subjects allows flexibility and more targeted learning


Madison Dutcher

Accelerated English classroom

Have you ever been stuck choosing between an Advanced Placement (AP) or College Prep (CP) level course? Many students in RV have struggled with the debate of whether or not to jump up to AP or drop below to CP in different subjects. However, there is a huge difference between the two.

Take English class for example. AP English courses, like AP Literature and AP Language and Composition, emphasize accelerated, advanced and enriched study of different literary movements, college-level research and composition. Both thematic and genre-centered approaches to literature are studied. Substantial self-paced reading, research, analysis, and writing both in and outside the classroom are required. CP, on the other hand, meets the demand to provide students with the communication skills necessary for a rigorous, multi-year college or training program. It requires self-paced reading, research and composition outside the classroom, but at a slower pace.

However, this school year offered a third option in-between the two: the accelerated level.

Think of accelerated English as a middle ground where students can be in-between AP and CP classes. ACC English, or accelerated English, still explores the same concepts and skills as AP and CP English, but at a bit of a faster pace than CP, and with more time and depth perhaps than AP (in which students cover a vast number of texts). ACC still requires heavy independent reading but not the rigor of AP.

“The best part about it is that the stakes aren’t as high as AP, but accelerated allows students who are high achievers that typically do well in school to still have a good time in English without being in CP which can be micromanaged,” said Lauren Maira,  ACC English IV teacher. “In accelerated you can still choose your path.”

Maira was actually a part of the committee that decided between adding the middle level or not. She was a huge advocate for the course as she saw a wide range of students between CP and AP. Many students voiced concerns about the courses being too rigorous or too slow. In the English department, teachers claimed that they need that middle ground which supports all levels of learners and allows students the option to decide which level is best for them. 

“The curriculum had to come about very quickly, so I’m excited to see it evolve as time goes on and the changes that will be made to it especially the changes made by students’ suggestions,” said Maira. 

Many teachers, including Maira, welcome the opportunity to teach at the ACC level and believe that it benefits students in choosing which level course is best for them. Teachers are excited to see the course develop over time and the new ideas to come in the future. 

What is important to see is whether or not other schools in the surrounding areas use ACC courses. “The use of multiple levels is fairly common, particularly in area high schools that we investigated,” said Head Director of Curriculum and Instruction, William Connolly. “While the number of levels and what they are called vary, most schools had at least three levels. We were fairly unique in our approach prior to the change.”

The creation and implementation of ACC courses was a heavily discussed topic over the last two years. The creation and implementation of the ACC level were not only aided by feedback from school administrators and teachers, but students as well. Many believed they were misplaced in either CP or Honors/AP courses.

“The creation of the accelerated level was spurred in part by feedback from members of the community during engagement sessions in 2015,” Connolly said. “It was a topic that the administration and staff discussed and analyzed for several years prior to the decision being made.”

There is some concern moving forward, however, about what the addition of a third level will do to the other two levels. A common concern is the notion that the ACC course level will leave to a “brain drain” from the CP courses, as motivated students will want to move up a level, leaving lower-achieving students behind in CP. The hope is that this will not happen and that there will be a balance among the three course offerings.

“While not everyone was pushing for another level, a fair number of parents, students, and school staff were interested in the school pursuing the accelerated level,” said Connolly. “The fact that people from all groups were behind this was a significant factor.” 

For junior Andre Faigal the experience of taking an ACC course, more specifically, Mrs. Maira’s ACC English III, was one he thoroughly enjoyed. “I like them because they are faster paced,” said Faigal. “However, I am hoping in the future, incoming RV students can get the full extent of the accelerated classes. I think the environment my accelerated teachers like Mrs. Maira made was wonderful. The material was distributed well and the pacing was easy to handle.” 

Certainly, the creation and implementation of accelerated courses here at RV was a decision that was long thought about and pushed for. The benefits of accelerated courses are already recognized, even in their first year of implementation. Teachers and administrators are hoping the addition pays off.