This coming school year, Palo Alto High School will add many new classes for students. Perhaps the most notable change is the introduction of the Advanced Placement English Language and Composition class for upperclassmen. American Literature 11 Honors, previously offered to juniors, will now be offered only to students in the Social Justice Pathway.
Paly’s decision to open the AP English Language class to juniors is a severe misstep by the administration. This decision will increase the homework load of juniors, remove a critical piece of English instruction and decrease enrollment in English electives.
Junior year is already regarded as the most stressful year, as students take more honors and AP classes. Taking AP English Language in junior year will replace American Literature 11H, which was designed to serve as a transitionary course to more complex classes, with a yearlong, college-level course, exacerbating student stress.
The new class will also replace other English classes. Currently, every student must take at least one English elective before graduating, choosing from courses like Humanities and Escape Literature.
Starting in August, a student can bypass the electives by taking AP English Language and AP English Literature consecutively, and miss out on a class that allows them to explore different applications of English under less pressure. It is likely that some of Paly’s treasured electives will disappear as a result.
While Paly is lacking weighted humanities classes, and the addition of AP English Language was a well-intentioned effort to expand these options, the school should have taken other routes to address the problem. AP English Language should have been implemented for seniors only. This would increase students’ options without eliminating the current system in junior year. Furthermore, student input should have been gathered through an online poll before the change was made.
Finally, adding weighted English electives to the course catalog and keeping American Literature 11H available would allow students to take competitive classes that interested them.
Since AP English Language is already on the course catalog, we realize that it is too late to remove the class for next year’s juniors. However, in future years, the Paly administration and PAUSD should take more caution before introducing a weighty class to an already overextended student body.