BARRINGTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Some Barrington parents are speaking out after the school district announced it would eliminate the honors program for English and social studies next year.
The news came to Barrington High School parents in an email earlier this month from principal Joseph Hurley.
“Please note that when selecting classes for next year, Social Studies will return to its original course selection prior to the 2021-2022 school year which did not include an Honors Distinction option,” Hurley wrote in the email, which was shared by a parent with 12 News. “English will now be offering one heterogenous course in both grades 9 and 10, with no Honors Distinction or Honors option being offered at any grade level.”
English honors courses had already been eliminated this school year, but students had the ability to earn an honors distinction by completing an independent project.
There were no honors level social studies courses, but students had the option to earn an honors distinction this year.
Come next year, both of those options will be scrapped, and parents like Devyn Smith want to know why.
“Parents are really upset because there’s been no discussion about it,” Smith said. “It’s clear the system has worked really well for this school district and they’ve been really successful in the past … there’s nothing to fix, but apparently the administration thinks there is.”
East Bay Newspaper and the Providence Journal were the first to report the news.
The town’s school committee was scheduled to meet about the issue Monday night, but Hurley tested positive for COVID and the meeting was postponed.
When asked for comment about the changes, the district’s assistant superintendent provided a PowerPoint presentation on restructuring and a link to the high school’s website, which said the changes are based in part on equity.
“Maintaining the rigor of curricular programming, while supporting the social emotional needs of our students, frames our focus,” the website said. “Importantly, not only does this shift not remove opportunities for those in honors, it increases opportunities for all students. Evidence shows that increasing access to honors-level content can have the effect of raising achievement for all students, including higher-performing students.”
Kate Novak, the consultant who’s been working with the district to implement the changes, told 12 News in an email the new framework is based on something called “Universal Design for Learning.”
“The intent is not to provide all students with a single curriculum, but rather a learning environment that meets their needs for challenge and support,” she wrote.
Smith is concerned that no children will have the opportunity to take classes that prepare them for advanced placement courses as juniors and seniors, and will no longer have honors coursework listed on their transcripts.
“It’s clear that the transcript matters and having an honors designation, combined with AP and other courses, shows you’ve taken the most challenging courses available,” he said. “So if that’s not an option and is not available, it will put them at a slight disadvantage.”
The district said it has no plans to restructure math or science courses in at least the next three to five years.