AP title not necessary for juniors pursuing interests in English

February 5, 2015 — by Eileen Toh and Isabelle Tseng

English 11 Honors students are actually receiving an equal opportunity to take advanced courses in the subject.


We all know the complaint: Nearby schools such as Monta Vista or Lynbrook allow their juniors to take classes like AP Literature Composition (AP Lit) or AP Language Composition (AP Lang), while juniors at Saratoga High have only two options: English 11 or English 11 Honors.

Though this may not seem fair at first, English 11 Honors students are actually receiving an equal opportunity to take advanced courses in the subject.

Members of the school board have proposed in past years to offer AP Lit or Lang to juniors, not so much for educational purposes, but rather to demonstrate on transcripts that students have taken more challenging coursework. And with course selections coming up, the discussion has resurfaced.

From the perspective of transcripts, English 11 Honors provides the same GPA boost as AP Lit and AP Lang.  Moreover, many colleges only offer AP credit for either Lit or Lang anyway, so taking both APs junior and senior year offers little benefit in that regard.

Some argue that, college credit aside, allowing juniors to take AP Lit would allow them to focus on AP Lang as seniors; this would give students more interested in English the opportunity to explore different advanced fields of the subject without having to double up on APs during their senior year.

Both of the English APs, however, are designed for students who possess what English department head Natasha Ritchie calls “senior skills.” These are skills that are a main focus of English honors classes.

English 11 Honors is as difficult of a junior year course as AP Lit offered at Monta Vista and Lynbrook. The works juniors read in English 11 Honors are classics and essential for all students to study, especially “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald or “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare.

If students were to go straight from a sophomore human nature-focused course (English 10) to a senior literature or language course, they would lose out on valuable lessons about human society, which are covered in English 11 Honors.

Taking more APs junior year may not be worth missing out on explorations, depression, internal guilt and external war, which are taught through American Literature and should be experienced by all students.  

Some people suggest that the English department could use the same English 11 Honors curriculum in junior year AP Lit while adding elements that prepare students for the AP Lit exam. This solution, however, would essentially require restructuring the entire English course pathway just so that students could add another AP to their college applications.

Additionally, the English 11 Honors’ curriculum aligns with the U.S. history students learn in their junior year, thus enforcing the material taught in both classes.

The current curriculum of AP Lit, on the other hand, encompasses a much broader scope, ranging from Ancient Greek to Victorian to Modern Literature. If juniors were to take AP Lit, not only would they miss out on essential novels studied in English 11, but they would also lose that correlation between their English and history class curricula.

And even if AP Lit were offered to juniors, the course would likely not be as popular as is envisioned by proponents of the change. A poll of 75 freshmen and sophomores revealed that, given a choice between the three, 21 percent of students would take “regular” English 11, 49 percent would take English 11 Honors and only 30 percent would take AP Lit.

Yes, high school is meant to be a time to try new things, delve into various interests and start preparing for life beyond college. But if you forget about impressing colleges and family members for a minute, it becomes clear that English 11 Honors is the best pathway to success in either AP Lit or Lang when students are seniors.