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Honors-Option or Unleveled Classes

CHS presenting on honors-option classes at The Atlantic Education Summit.

To increase enrollment in rigorous and college preparatory classes, in 2012-13, Charlottesville City Schools began offering innovative “honors-option” courses at CHS. In 2019-20, this model will expand to Walker and Buford.

These courses allow different students in the same classroom to elect standard-level or honors-level credit for the course, depending on the student’s choice in the complexity and rigor of the readings and assignments. This promotes greater equity and diversity within a given classroom, which benefits all students.

Graph of African-American Student Enrollment in Advanced Classes at CHS 2015-2016Another outcome is that it helps a greater number of students see themselves as capable of honors-level work and become more likely to enroll in future honors-level, dual enrollment, or AP classes. In fact, Charlottesville High School’s African-American enrollment in honors-level classes has risen 29 percent since 2015-16 (even excluding the honors-option classes). CHS teachers and staff have presented this model — which was developed with guidance from UVa’s Curry School of Education — at educational conferences and other venues.

Having started in English 9, honors-option classes have since spread to English 10-11,  Economics and Personal Finance, AVID, Biology 2/Human Anatomy, capstone Commercial Photography, introductory world languages, and Spanish 2.

In the 2018-19 school year, Walker began a transition to unleveled instruction; in 2019-20, both Walker and Buford will become more aligned with CHS’s honors-option model, which continues to expand across the curriculum.

To support teachers at CHS, Buford, and Walker in this transition, Charlottesville City Schools are working closely with Carol Ann Tomlinson of UVA’s Curry School of Education, who is a national leader in this field.

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