Opinion: CHS should better encourage honors classes

Although CHS provides a wide range of honors classes for all grades, only those considered to be upperclassmen classes by the UC and Cal State systems are GPA-weighted. CHS has also removed certain honors courses over the years. Taking these classes away and selectively weighting them discredits their value; CHS needs to do more to emphasize underclassmen honors courses and encourage participation, considering that high school honors classes provide numerous opportunities for students and open various doors for higher education.

According to CHS academic counselor David Rivas, English I Honors, English II Honors and Biology Honors are not weighted, along with Physics Honors, Geometry Honors and Algebra II Honors.

“[Weighted classes] are typically considered to be those junior and senior level courses,” said Rivas.

CHS does not weigh traditionally underclassmen honors courses. This is done to mirror the UC and Cal State weighting systems, where high school GPAs on applications only weigh upperclassmen honors courses. However, such a policy only contributes to an already disorganized course system that takes away a good portion of honors classes’ significance.

Unlike honors courses, every AP class is weighted. Instead of mirroring the UC and Cal State system, every honors class should be weighted as well to encourage enrollment by giving recognition to all honors students and decreasing confusion. 

Restrictions on which honors classes are weighted can be quite confusing for students. Subjects like English and history are regulated to specific grade levels, as opposed to science, world language, math and elective classes that can be taken by a student of any grade level. For instance, while Chemistry Honors is both viewed as an upperclassmen course and weighted, it is mainly taken by CHS sophomores. If all classes were standardized by grade, the weighting of only upperclassmen courses would make more sense. However, this is not the case, and all honors classes should therefore be weighted.

This inconsistency in the weighting of honors classes not only causes confusion but does not give adequate recognition to those students who apply themselves in these courses. Worse than not weighing the classes, however, is not having them at all.

In the case of Culver City High School, the school eliminated honors English classes for underclassmen to increase equity last fall. The idea behind this decision was that if 9th and 10th-grade students were all forced to take the same level of English, there would be more diversity in Advanced Placement English classes. 

Culver’s decision to eliminate underclassmen honors English classes does not guarantee that there will be more diversity in its AP English classes. It does, however, take away the opportunity to learn English at a highly sophisticated level for freshmen and sophomores who want to do so. While there is no denying the need for equity and diversity in education, removing honors classes is not the way to go for any school. 

Similarly, CHS used to have more honors courses, such as English III Honors and United States History Honors. Those two classes have been removed and are currently replaced by AP-level courses. Even this year, CHS is making course changes to the 2023-24 school year. For example, Math Analysis Honors will be replaced with AP Precalculus. Although these courses are meant for upperclassmen, it should not matter whether an honors class is intended for 9th and 10th grade or for 11th and 12th. The bottom line is that honors courses have been removed, therefore limiting options for students. 

The argument stands that upperclassmen honors courses are unnecessary since they serve the same purpose of providing a higher-level education as AP classes, but there are still fundamental differences in the application of each class that should be recognized by schools. Offering a variety of course levels to all high schoolers also gives students greater control over their workloads, as well as a taste of the freedom they will have when picking classes in college

Honors classes give students who want more of a challenge but do not want to get involved in the AP system the opportunity to take that step and are thus important for students. The minimized options for class levels that come with removing and replacing honors courses only harm the learning experience of all students. 

“If [students] are in classes that are not their level, that can negatively impact their overall learning experience,” said CHS Physiology Honors and Biology Honors teacher Mason Markell.

Honors classes are vital for all students, and students should exercise the right to choose the classes they look forward to learning in. It would be incredibly detrimental if eliminating honors classes became a high school standard, and schools should instead continue to encourage students to take them throughout high school. 

No matter the grade level a class is meant for, all honors classes are important for students. They prepare them for future AP classes, allow students to challenge themselves and much more. The hard work that goes into honors classes should be recognized, regardless of whether or not the class is for an upperclassman.

Overall, CHS’ administration should do a better job of promoting honors courses, and the best way to do so is by keeping various honors classes for students to choose from and weighing all of them. In this way, students will be encouraged to take honors classes while also getting recognition for doing so.