In my 15-year high-school teaching career, I have learned that students in different percentiles of a freshman class have very different capacities, needs and goals. De-leveling makes it much harder for teachers to tailor academic curricula and lessons to a diverse set of learners.
In practical terms, the transition to the “project-based approach,” a trend in pedagogy, means students are assigned much less reading and independent work because their abilities vary so widely. This shift away from homework means that more content is delivered directly in class, often by video, reducing time for discussion and analysis. Group work certainly is worthwhile in some measure, but it tends to allow weaker students to draft behind their stronger peers, masking disparate outcomes. Grades are assigned by group and skew high, reflecting the effort of the most motivated student.
Learning outcomes following this well-intended but reckless reform are thus likely remain highly variable, concealed behind a façade of equity. Like de-emphasizing the SAT in college applications, it will end up most hurting the students whom it is supposed to benefit. Brookline High School should instead focus on reducing class size, emphasize literacy relentlessly and pay teachers more to attract better talent.