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Bellevue eliminates three advanced class options for upperclassmen

Adam+Heuertz+consults+with+students+in+his+first+hour+English+12+A+class+about+their+poetry+project.++Next+year%2C+English+12+A+will+no+longer+be+available+along+with+other+advanced+classes.
Adam Heuertz consults with students in his first hour English 12 A class about their poetry project.  Next year, English 12 A will no longer be available along with other advanced classes.

Adam Heuertz consults with students in his first hour English 12 A class about their poetry project. Next year, English 12 A will no longer be available along with other advanced classes.

Gauret Stearns

Gauret Stearns

Adam Heuertz consults with students in his first hour English 12 A class about their poetry project. Next year, English 12 A will no longer be available along with other advanced classes.

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In years prior to the 2018-19 school year, Bellevue West has had advanced classes that allowed students to partake in a higher level curriculum that is more challenging than the regular classes, while also not having the rigorous curriculum of an Advanced Placement course. Beginning next year, these advanced classes will no longer be available.

As a district, we applied for a grant–called the National Math Science Initiative (NMSI) grant that would provide $1.5 million,” principal Kevin Rohlfs said. “We are in the final steps now of being approved for the grant, but what they want you to do–at the eleventh and twelfth grade level–is to get rid of the advanced classes and encourage more students into the AP classes. At the ninth and tenth grade level, we are still going to have advanced classes.”

Although there will not be an advanced class options for juniors and seniors, changes to the regular class curriculums don’t appear imminent.

The curriculum for our regular level courses will not change,” Math Department Chair Karie Lauterbach said. “The only change in the math department specifically is eliminating Calculus A while giving students the option for Calculus AP and/or Statistics AP.”

With the elimination of advanced classes for upperclassmen, the most glaring consequence is the rise in the number of students who register for AP classes. The NMSI grant has taken that into consideration and has implemented policies to aid in the rising number of AP students.

The great thing about the grant is that it pays for the training of additional AP teachers,” Rohlfs said. “AP training is really expensive, so within our budget, we were lucky to send one or two teachers a year to train during the summer. Now we can send about 30.”

With this in place, the English department will add one AP teacher to the eleventh and twelfth grade levels with other Bellevue West departments to follow.

Although the grant will not cover the social studies department,it does allow [Bellevue West] to take the money that we had in place for AP supports and give it to the social studies department because those supports are taken care of by the grant,Rohlfs said.

The benefits of eliminating these advanced classes and encouraging AP classes are relatively obvious, but there are also negative consequences that may ride on the back of the student.

“I don’t like that advanced classes are being taken away from upperclassmen because some students are above average for a lot of classes, but not ready for the pace of AP,” senior Elyse Splichal said. “Advanced classes are good in between classes to those who want to be challenged, but don’t want to be drowning in hours of homework.”

Because there will not be any advanced classes available for juniors and seniors, there is likely to be an increase in the number of students registering for AP classes.

“I think the first year at least, we are going to have a jump, but I don’t think it’s going to be too wild,” English Department Chair Amy Smith said. “AP classes in certain areas aren’t for everybody, but I do think that we will see a 10-20% increase.”

The flip side of the coin is that there is a possibility that students who were taking advanced classes might not register for the AP classes, and instead drop down to the regular classes.

“I think in some ways that they might, but I hope they don’t,” Smith said. “I hope they choose to challenge themselves because it is going to prepare them for a four-year college in a way that a regular class is not designed to do.”

With an emphasis on increased rigor, Bellevue West will better prepare students for life after high school.

“More often than not, it is the student saying to themselves ‘I don’t think I can,’” Rohlfs said. “We want to better prepare students for what’s next. Our goal shouldn’t be to just get you through high school.”

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Bellevue eliminates three advanced class options for upperclassmen