By Sean Tseng
As Piedmont Hills settles into the fall semester, the English Department is once again working to bring English 4 back onto the course list for seniors. This comes at the heels of a student-driven petition from last spring which brought the issue to the forefront of Piedmont’s concerns.
English teacher Tricia Bolster, whose sophomore students wrote and delivered the petition last school year, has been a long-time vocal advocate for bringing English 4 back.
“I’ve heard from a lot of students,” remarks Ms. Bolster. “They want to take something else as seniors besides ERWC.”
English 4 has been offered at Piedmont Hills before. Since Piedmont’s establishment, the course had been available to seniors who did not want to take English Literature and Composition AP (AP Literature). However, four years ago, the district issued a mandate ordering teachers to stop offering the course. Instead, ERWC (Expository Reading and Writing Course) became the only alternative seniors had to AP Literature.
ERWC teaches nonfiction English writing and is meant to reinforce the literacy skills of students who have not yet passed certain English tests. Essentially, it acts as a remedial college course, allowing passing students to skip the English tests in college and go straight into English 1A. It also allows special needs students to be mainstreamed into the population.
“It’s a valid course for a valid population. It is not supposed to be the default English course for seniors,” Ms. Bolster firmly explains.
The biggest issue with the current options available for Piedmont seniors is the fact that a sizeable part of the student body has taken English Language and Composition AP (AP Language) in their junior year. This means students who go from AP Language, which already teaches nonfiction writing at a rigorous level and pace, to ERWC are experiencing a repetitive and slow class. This causes grief for many academically advanced students who feel the class is not meeting their needs.
“One, it’s useless. Two, it’s not fun at all,” sighs senior and former AP Language student Hannah Lim. This attitude seems to be the general consensus among the population of former AP Language students now enrolled in ERWC.
Of course, these issues have not come at the fault of either the course or the teachers. The problem lies in the fact that ERWC must cater to a wide range of students with differing academic backgrounds. From mainstreamed special education students to students who excelled in AP Language and everyone in between, ERWC poses a serious challenge. No matter how teachers run the class, a large amount of students will find the course ill-fitted for their needs.
“Even teachers want (former AP Language) kids out so they can really teach,” says English Department Chair and English teacher Nancy Kennett. This, in addition to the testimonials of several past students, has motivated Ms. Kennett to fight for the reinstatement of English 4 over the last few months.
As of early October, the district has decided that English 4 may be offered again on the condition that it be piloted as a new course. In a meeting held on Oct. 18, the English Department Chairs and a representative from each department convened to write the English 4 curriculum. Ms. Kennett projects that English 4 will be available to Piedmont students as early as next August. Still, the results are not entirely what the teachers and the English Department had hoped for, at least in terms of timeliness.
“I wish we had offered it this year. That’s what feels unnecessary. We could have offered it this year,” Ms. Kennett reflects.
Ms. Bolster echoes the sentiment as well: “I was sad. I was hoping (seniors) would get the choice this year.”