Honors English or No Honors English: That Is the Question?

Honors English or No Honors English: That Is the Question?

Kai Spitz, Staff Writer

To be or not to be, that is the question”  is the most famous soliloquy in the works of Shakespeare –

The elimination of the Honors English classes has been a very heavily debated issue in the past few months. At the beginning of the school year, the district opted to do away with all Honors English courses at CCUSD schools without getting the full backing of the parents and students. Many petitions have been circulating to get the Honors English classes reinstated. 

Since there have been many mixed feelings regarding this decision, the names of all interviewees were withheld to avoid any disagreements or hard feelings. After interviewing a handful of students, teachers, and parents, here is what they had to say on this very controversial topic:

A few students that I approached were highly in favor of reinstating the Honors English classes. Their reasoning behind this was they felt that eliminating these classes would negatively affect their chances of getting into good colleges, as they would not have as many opportunities as other candidates whose schools offered more rigorous coursework. However, it has been confirmed by our College Counselor that colleges look at what courses are offered before looking at what course the student is taking. These students also felt that the Honors English classes were open and inclusive to all students who wanted to challenge themselves, not just limited to an elite few. On the other hand, some students felt that eliminating Honors English classes allowed them to have classes with other students that they normally would not have been in class with, allowing more friendships to form and acquaintances to be made. 

Teachers, however, were stronger in their opposition to each other regarding the subject. An English Teacher here at CCHS said she feels that the transition from Honors English to the new all-inclusive College Prep English 9 & 10 courses, which have the same curriculum as what used to be deemed “honors,” is a good way to have all students be equitably challenged:

“For the first time, students are in classes with others whom they have never been in classes with before. They are exposed to different students from various backgrounds. I think this is a very good thing. When we track students, they can go through their entire four years of high school without ever meeting students who are not on their track. I’ve already heard one of my English 9 students remark that she is in classes with students she never knew existed in all three years at CCMS.” 

She does acknowledge that there is a very wide range of learning abilities in the new English language college prep courses. However, she also stated that since honors courses were open enrollment where any student could sign up for these classes, there was a wide range of abilities in her past honors classes as well. Another teacher felt that the elimination of honors courses is a disservice to students who want to immerse themselves in a learning environment with like-minded students who want to be challenged and actually signed up to be in these classes. “As the former Honors English classes were open to any student who wanted to enroll, I don’t see how this was an equity issue in the least.”

To address the students concerns who feel that the lack of rigorous coursework could work against them when applying to college, the first teacher I interviewed said, “Our new course offering should not decrease the odds of CCHS students getting into a good college because colleges look at whether or not a student took the most rigorous courses offered at that school; they are not compared to students at other schools.” This was verified by our College Counselor. 

I also approached a few parents to see how they felt regarding the elimination of Honors English. The majority of parents that I met with were against the district’s decision to eliminate the Honors English classes. Parents felt that all children had access to taking the honors classes in previous years and that there should be opportunities for all students to want to challenge themselves and stand out from the crowd, as getting into college is a very competitive arena. The few parents who were in favor of eliminating the Honors English classes felt that this removed a stigma of who was in which class and put all students on the same playing field academically.

Who knows if the elimination of Honors English classes will remain permanent, or if this is just another practice the district is putting in place to help make students feel more included and have the same chances of succeeding. Only time and data will tell what impact the elimination of Honors English will have on students.