Freshman English will remain split

Jack Shapiro and Neal Biswas

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Despite efforts by the English Department to compress classes into one lane at Palo Alto High School, freshman English will continue to be offered in two lanes next year.

According to the English Department Instructional Supervisor Shirley Tokheim, the administration was looking to combine English 9 and English 9A into one class, but one of the steps needed to make the change was not completed.

“One of the steps that we still need to do that didn’t happen is go present our ideas in front of the Board [of Education] and educate the Board about how important it is for us to move increasingly toward equity,” Tokheim said.

The main reason for the change would have been moving toward reducing the achievement gap, beginning in freshman year, according to Tokheim.

“As a department [the idea that] we need to do a better job of serving all students motivated us to offer one English class,” Tokheim said. “What we saw in our classes was that when students had to choose whether to go into accelerated or regular from 8th grade before they’d even come to high school and before they actually know how they’re going to do in high school seemed to separate students in a way we didn’t like to see. We thought that we could better serve all students by having them start in 9th grade together.”

Tokheim added that the English Department has been talking about having one freshman English class for over five years. Although English will remain laned for the 2012-2013 school year, Tokheim believes the change to a single freshman course will happen eventually.

“I don’t know what the timeline is,” Tokheim said. “I know that it will happen. And then our plan is to, not next year but the following year, offer [the change], and we’ve even talked about possibly offering 9A as the class that everyone goes into.”

However, the proposal cannot be implemented until it is presented in front of the Board of Education.

“The Board cares a lot about decreasing the achievement gap, and our move toward creating one English class reflects that mandate to us to better serve students who we typically or historically have not served as well,” Tokheim said.

Tokheim also pointed out that teaching to a wide range of abilities in a classroom is something English teachers at Paly have already been doing.

“The teachers that we have are professionals that are able to teach the wide range of abilities that do come into every class we have,” Tokheim said. “We have multiple classes in the English department, all are electives, that are not laned, and so we have a lot of experience teaching a class that has a wide range of abilities. This is just moving more in that direction.”