San Diego Unified School District

San Diego Unified to Restore Some — but Not All — Canceled Honors Classes at Patrick Henry High

A couple of weeks ago, students learned the school was planning to eliminate some advance and honors classes

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In the wake of negative reactions from some parents, an official with the San Diego Unified School District said Tuesday that a plan to cancel some honors classes next year at Patrick Henry High School would not, in fact, be enacted in full.

The controversial plan, which was paused last week, will still eliminate some honors and advanced classes.

Last Friday, dozens of concerned parents met with district representatives to express their frustrations.

Patrick Henry High School's principal said she received good feedback from parents on their concerns about a controversial plan to eliminate honors courses. NBC 7's Rory Devine reports.

More than 150 parents and district representatives gathered virtually to address Patrick Henry High School's plan to eliminate eight advanced and honors classes from its offerings, including advanced English, History and biology.

On Tuesday, Area Superintendent Erin Richison said that 11th grade honors courses of Honors American Literature and Honors US History were being restored to the 2022-23 curriculum. She also said, "In addition, we will be collaborating with our district curriculum teams to develop honors courses at the 9th and 10th grade levels open to any interested student for the 2022-23 school year."

Richison said that only the 11th-grade honors courses were being restored. Regarding classes for the rising 9th- and 10th-graders, she said, "we will be collaborating with our district curriculum teams to develop honors courses at the 9th and 10th-grade levels open to any interested student for the 2022-23 school year."

The school's principal, Michelle Irwin, also addressed the issue of those classes in a statement on Tuesday

"... we are excited to announce that Patrick Henry will participate in a district pilot of 'Honors for All' course options in grades 9 and 10 to offer more opportunities for our students to earn weighted credit," Irwin said.

Parents and students learned of the changes through an earlier email from Irwin, which said the course adjustments would create a more balanced heterogeneously grouped classes, eliminate the stigma of non-weighted courses, and provide a well-balanced course offering for all students.

Some showed up at district headquarters Tuesday afternoon during an unrelated school board meeting to protest the change.

"This is how scholarships are allocated, so scholarships that actually pay for that college come from a weighted GPA," parent Felice Aston explained. "Equity doesn't mean giving everybody the same thing, equity means giving everyone the opportunity to reach their potential."

The advanced and honors classes are weighted, meaning they are graded on a 5.0 scale and can boost students’ grade point averages. Advanced Placement (AP) classes, which are also weighted and can earn students college credit, were not being eliminated.

Aston and other parents are concerned Honors for All won’t meet weighted credit standards.  

“The Honors for All program has no differentiation as to who can enroll in the class, and the "honors" part of it is actually a project," she said.

The plan caused outrage from some who see the classes as a way to stand out to colleges and said they were not given advanced notice and on Wednesday, after a student protest, the leaders of Patrick Henry High announced the changes were on pause.

Irwin said last week that the school wanted to make the changes a collaborative effort before moving forward.

Friday's forum was an opportunity for parents to meet directly with district representatives on next steps. More than 150 people attended the virtual meetings where they were divided into listening groups.

Richison said at the meeting that she wanted to “really listen and listen intently,” to “as many voices as possible,” and “there will be next steps.”

Parents told district representatives they felt the plan was poorly thought out. One parent said her student had “zero idea classes were being dropped.”

Another parent said the idea to drop advanced classes would lead to a worse future for students.

"Patrick Henry is going to be the starting point for dumbing down the rest of the district so that everybody – everybody gets trophies, is kinda how it seems to me.”

Dr. Jennifer Roberson, instructional support officer for SDUSD, apologized to parents who felt they were not being heard and asked them to consider three things during the forum: their hope for their student's future, what their students should know and what shifts should occur for that to happen.

More than 2,600 students attend Patrick Henry High School, the largest school in the San Diego Unified School District located in the Allied Gardens area of San Diego.

On the SDUSD website, the school boats "many avenues for academic challenges," including a wide range of Advanced Placement and Honors classes. The school also has a partnership with Mesa College to allow students to earn both high school and college credit through courses.

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