The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

The student news site of Francis W. Parker School

The Parker Weekly

Should advanced English be offered at Parker?

Exploring the benefits and downsides of tracked courses
Photo credit: The Parker Weekly

Although the difference between an A, A- and B+ are inconsequential for some, for many, these simple letters are everything. Stress may be a student’s highest hurdle to jump throughout both high school and college, and most of this stress is driven by grades. Students might feel pressure from parents or even impose that stress on themselves. Regardless of where it comes from, stress and anxiety are real and can impact one’s life both and mentally and physically. 

From science quizzes, where one mistake leads to 80% to in-class essays with paper and pen, at Parker, students are fully driven by grades. “Even though I’m only a freshman, I have started to calculate my GPA,” freshman Naomi Pendo said. “I just feel like people are so competitive about their grades at Parker.”

With both math and science, students can choose the difficulty of their class. However, in humanities courses, this isn’t the case. In both the history and English departments, a student’s workload and expectations are dependent on which teacher they are assigned. Although it is expected that workloads from teacher to teacher will vary slightly, the differences are vast enough that many students have spoken out about their desires for an alternate advanced course in hopes of gaining credit for this additional silent challenge. “There is a lot more work in one class versus another class, so for those grades to be weighted the same is just kind of unfair,” said freshman John Swanson.

One of the extraordinary things about Parker is the freedom that teachers have within their curricula – often, at school, teachers are told to follow a specific curriculum regardless of their interests or passions. Luckily at Parker, this isn’t the case. Teachers for the most part have the power to tailor their material to their passions and what they find important. For example, the history teachers together have constructed extraordinary projects on topics that they find interesting. They aren’t tied down to a textbook – they work amongst themselves and construct their own curricula that they feel passionately about. 

Almost every student has preferences when it comes to the courses offered in the Upper School. There are options in all departments which allows students to learn and take deeper dives into their personal interests. These classes range from filmmaking to sociology of sports to world literature. 

“I’m grateful for all of the courses because I think it gives me a wide variety of things I might want to pursue. It also gives other students options to explore things that they might’ve not thought they were interested in,” said Raiva Lessing. 

For those who prefer STEM based courses, there is a broad range of creative courses available as well as advanced placement options. This lets students who excel in math or science shine. But, what about those who excel in humanities courses or those who want another stamp of ‘accelerated insert course’ on their resume? Many feel that for several reasons not having advanced humanities courses is unfair. Some students do their best work in English and history classes. “There should be an opportunity for them to put this talent on display as students do in science, Spanish, and math,” said Sarah Matthews, student government president. 

This hypothetical accelerated curriculum would allow students to take deeper dives into the material. Although it may be more work, participating in a class of this nature might be perfect for someone who is hoping to major in an English-related field in college or simply a student who loves learning. 

Aside from the curriculum, the environment in these classrooms will likely cater to those who truly want to be there. This will allow for deeper discussions and more meaningful classes. Often students who don’t prioritize a subject don’t do that course’s homework. During group projects, a similar student may leave the work to their more involved partner. Not only are they likely receiving poor grades and limiting their learning, but they are also possibly hindering classmates. An advanced option for English would hopefully allow those who want to delve deep into a discussion to be surrounded by people who want the same. 

“Sometimes the flow of class is slowed down by those who couldn’t care less about analyzing literature and enjoying it,” an anonymous survey respondent said. “I would prefer if there were classes that were designated for people who want to really dig deeper and ask real questions. Also sometimes these people say things just for participation points that are super surface level or common knowledge.”

Aside from the desire to be in a more engaged environment, many students feel that their English classes are significantly more difficult than others, and for that they want credit. Thirty-two percent of students who responded to this question are against the idea of an advanced English course. 

The thought behind this is that many students might instead take the class for the credit instead of the environment which is quite likely. For example, many students who have no plans to become physicists take advanced physics solely for that extra word on a resume. Similarly, many have expressed that they’ll feel pressure to take this class because it would reflect poorly on them if they didn’t have that stamp of advanced. 

This additional accelerated class may lead to unnecessary stress for students who are already enrolled in the other advanced classes. More than twice the people who took this survey agree that they would like to implement an advanced English course into Parker’s Upper School curriculum. 

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About the Contributor
Zoe Polsky
Zoe Polsky, Staff Writer
Zoe Polsky is very excited to be on "The Weekly!" As a freshman, she is expecting many new responsibilities, but is excited to take on the role of a Staff Writer. She enjoys playing tennis, watching Notting Hill (her favorite movie), and spending time with friends.