English course offerings were reviewed. Sadly, not much changed.

Ahead of the 2023-24 school year, WHS counselors have been encouraged to offer both AP Language and AP Literature for the most ambitious senior English students. Although this has been possible in years prior, it’s been rather anomalous as many of the periods occur simultaneously, making it difficult for students to have space in their schedules for both courses.

Despite a push from some students and parents for AP Lang to be offered junior year, as many surrounding school districts do, WHS has remained firm in its decision to exclude any AP English classes from its junior year course catalog.

According to Westfield K-12 Supervisor of English Language Arts Elizabeth Reilly, there has been no official statement regarding the ability for students to take both AP English courses senior year, but “language in the program of studies that prevented students from doing so has been removed” and “more conversations have been had with the counseling department to make it more accessible.”

While Reilly’s efforts alongside the WHS Counseling Department are valiant and take steps in the right direction, what would be most beneficial for the most talented English students is missed in this decision. As students apply to colleges across the country, they are compared not only to their peers at their own school, but also to students in the surrounding areas.

Because districts such as Summit, Cranford, Milburn, Livingston and many others offer AP Lang in their junior year course catalog, WHS students often face a disadvantage in the college admissions process with one fewer AP course.

The college admissions process can feel random at times, however offering AP Lang to juniors is one factor that can be completely controlled and is not being employed.

Furthermore, with the decision to allow students to take two AP English courses senior year, students who want to opt in are forced to sacrifice a slot of their senior year to a full-year course that could have been taken a year prior.

Senior year is frequently utilized as a time to develop interests towards majors students may want to study in college through elective courses, and with the decision to take two traditional English classes senior year, space is lost in class schedules to discover these passions and interests.

In Westfield, nothing is held more sacred than the tradition of excellence that is branded as the district’s motto for academia. With this in mind, it is surprising that WHS has elected, despite having both the supply and demand from students, to prevent the ability to take AP-level English courses during their junior year.

Summit Supervisor of English Language Arts Corey Walsh said, “My experience has been that colleges want to see students taking the most challenging course options while showing they can maintain good grades.” This sentiment, while obvious to most applicants, is being hindered by the current course catalog at WHS. On top of not offering AP Lang junior year, there is also no honors-level English course for incoming freshmen.

Unlike mathematics or world language courses, it is BOE policy that all English courses must be homogeneous in rigor as students enter WHS. English I is a non-weighted course that lowers the weighted GPA of the highest caliber students, regardless of the grade achieved, when it is time to apply to college.

Eighth grade RIS English Teacher Denis McMorrow said, “I do think there would be many benefits to having a ninth grade honors class where students who are interested in English, and are particularly talented in that subject area, could be grouped together at a higher level.”

The time to amend the English course catalog at WHS is now. Students are ready. Teachers are ready. Colleges have been ready. Let’s take action now.