Advanced Placement classes were created to offer students who were genuinely interested in a subject like, say, chemistry, an avenue through which to pursue that interest. Unfortunately, that idealistic view has been generally lost on the students at TPHS, many of whom often take multiple AP classes to make themselves more competitive in the college admissions race rather than to learn each of those particular subjects because they are passionate about them.
However, when it comes to English classes, the attitude toward them shifts a little. Some students would like to step away from taking AP English classes, but they also feel that the regular college prep English courses are not challenging enough for them. A mid-level English class, perhaps an English 11 or 12 Honors, functioning at an intensity between college prep level and AP level should be implemented at schools, but particularly at TPHS.
Students are looking to further their English skills, but are not focusing on taking the AP test, which effectively cuts down students’ educational time from the beginning of the year until June to until May. However, when they find that there is no mid-level English class in their junior or senior years of high school, some students push themselves to take AP English Language or AP English Literature, both of which move faster through the syllabus and study more texts as well as different texts in order to give students a challenging college curriculum while also preparing them for the AP test in May. Some upperclassmen drop down to the standard college prep English class, but find it too slow or not rigorous enough to engage them.
The lack of an Honors English course for upperclassmen is puzzling because other subjects like math have a variety of classes to accommodate every student’s individual comprehension and interests. Especially with the integration of Common Core into California school standards, some math classes have stayed the same, some have been adjusted and some have disappeared altogether from the course.
Common Core forces subjects that have historically not had any writing associated with them, such as math, to incorporate some element of writing in order to ensure that students receive a comprehensive, interdisciplinary education with writing across the curriculum. So, why is it that there is no English class to cater to students looking for a middle ground between college prep and Advanced Placement English, when writing skills are so vitally important to education that the state is mandating that schools integrate it into all subjects?
TPHS is also a naturally competitive educational environment for students, with many students taking numerous advanced classes to stay on equal footing with their peers, and counselors often advise students to take a step back from a schedule full of AP classes. But with such a dramatic difference in rigor between most college prep English and AP English, students are forced to choose, and many choose to level up rather than step down. AP classes are taught and graded at the college level, and according to the University of Michigan-Flint, the average full-time college student takes about four classes at a time. While it is true that college students cover a class curriculum in one semester rather than a full year at TPHS, the fact still stands that high school students piling up AP classes are typically dealing with a larger workload than that of an average college student. If they choose to take an AP English course in lieu of the nonexistent mid-level English course, they are only adding to their workload as well as the amount of stress and responsibility they will undertake for that year.
Adding Honors 11 and Honors 12 English courses would be beneficial for TPHS students. It would offer high-achieving students an option other than only AP English at a school that does so well at offering options for every educational level in other subjects.