English: Rewritten

Honors English classes are being removed at Troy High School. Here’s why and how people feel about it.


Raneen AlRammahi

Graphic Illustration of an open book representing the merge of the honors and standard classes

For as long as Troy High School has existed, ninth and tenth grade English classes have been divided. Currently, they’re separated into honors courses and standard courses. Students can choose which level they feel fits them best. This is typical across most subjects, with honors courses also being offered in algebra, geometry, psychology, chemistry and more. 

However, things are changing. The merging of honors and standard English classes has been in planning and preparation for a few years now, with the change already in progress. 

Amanda Fisher, English Language Arts Curriculum Instruction Specialist for Troy School District, explained this process, “Teachers have been engaged in learning more about the best teaching and learning practices for several years. There are currently four teachers at Troy High School that are piloting the new grade nine curriculum, and several other teachers are working with them as well.”

For both ninth and tenth grade, the ‘homogenous’ classes that are typically segregated by ability or interest level, will be merged into one class under one curriculum called ‘heterogeneous’ classes. These heterogeneous classes will be composed of a more holistic representation of each grade level. 

This change has raised many concerns among students. Senior Isabella Vitonavich explained that this change could impact students who typically choose to enroll in standard English courses, stating, “They might be learning in this environment that’s just a little bit too fast-paced for them. Everybody learns at a different pace, but it’s essential that they have a class that caters to their pace and to their educational needs, and with combining the two [classes], that whole idea might be misconstrued.” 

There is also concern about how this will affect students who were previously in honors classes. Freshman Lucas Giorio said, “I think people should have the option to be able to do honors. If you want to push yourself and make sure you have a harder class, I think you should be able to.”

Some classes have already undergone the merge in order to test out this combination and new curriculum. These testers are called ‘pilot’ classes. Freshman Noah Kamugunga is part of a pilot class this school year. He said, “It’s pretty good. It’s not easy, but it’s not too hard. It pushes us a little bit, but it’s not something we can’t do.”

This negative outlook from students on the new classes might be a result of their lack of knowledge about the possible benefits of combined classes. A survey of Troy High School students showed that only 43 percent know that this class merge is happening, and only nine percent know of any benefits. 

But what are these benefits? Studies show that in combined classes, students of all levels improve more so than they do in homogeneous classes. For example, a study published in 2009 found that homogeneous reading groups earned an average of 10.44 points on a standard test while heterogeneous reading groups earned about 13.50 points. 

The benefits aren’t just academic but social as well. This study also concluded, “Students in the heterogeneous group were more likely to observe and imitate each other’s behavior because they had different but complementary styles.” 

Jodie Duda, Troy High School English teacher, literacy coach, and pilot participant, expanded on this, commenting on the social interactions in heterogeneous classes, “We think what’s best for students is for all students to be together so they can learn from each other, not only in an academic sense but in a social sense. Kids don’t even want to talk to or work with others who are not like them instead of understanding that learning from others comes from social interaction as well as academic interaction.” 

Duda also spoke on the negative effects that current labels, such as ‘honors’ student or ‘regular’ student, have mentally, “I really think that those labels can be problematic in how kids see themselves. They can breed elitism and can be damaging, especially in a social sense. Doing away with labels hopefully will bring some humanity into the classroom and allow kids to get to know each other past those labels.”

As English course offerings shift, so will the specifics of the curriculum being taught. Fisher said of this curriculum generally, “All students will be given equitable access to rigorous programs that give them a solid foundation in reading and writing. The major difference [from previous years] will be the increased volume in all these activities.”

Duda spoke of the plans more specifically, “Typically, English is so literary analysis-focused, so we work to look at writing as an art form instead of just an analytical thing. We’re trying to make our curriculum more rounded and to parallel the writing that happens in the world. In the world you don’t write literary analysis. We analyze, certainly, but that curriculum was just too focused on one way of writing.” 

Despite the benefits of heterogeneous classes, many worries about the new curriculum in these classes still exist. People have expressed concerns such as ‘they aren’t teaching the classics anymore.’ In response to this, Duda said, “I think there’s a fear of the curriculum being ‘dumbed down’ without focus on texts that have been originally taught in the classroom. People say, ‘the classics are going away,’ which is not the case at all. We are including more choice. Students have choices to read into the classics or into different genres.” 

This change will not affect anyone currently attending Troy High School as it will take effect for the current eighth-grade students and beyond. The final change will be complete by the beginning of the 2024-2025 school year.