There are a number of careers for students to choose from when they grow up, but for many of them, graduation from high school, and therefore 4 years of English, is a requirement. West Chicago Community High School currently offers classes such as Drama and Journalism for seniors, but even with several courses to choose from, it is clear there is at least one English class missing from the list: English 4.
In the state of Illinois, 4 credits of English are required to graduate from high school with a diploma. WEGO does follow that law, with multiple English classes to choose from.
WEGO offers English 1, 2, and 3, and for many of those classes, there is an option to enroll at the standard, honors, or enriched-levels (there is no English 1 Enriched). These classes develop reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills through the analysis of novels, plays, poetry, and informational texts. All of these courses are all year-long.
“I personally like having year-long classes, rather than semester-long ones,” said junior Kenya Bahena.
West Chicago Community High School also offers an AP English Language and Composition and AP English Literature and Composition. These college-level classes focus on reading and writing and prepare students for higher education. At the end of the year, students can attempt to take the AP test to earn college credit as well.
Seniors are given the choice of several English electives. The electives, which are each offered for just one semester, are Drama, Writers Workshop, Creative Writing, Journalism, Contemporary Literature, Critical Reading, Media Literature and Composition, and Interpersonal Communication. The elective classes are meant to sharpen one or more aspects of English education that a student might not feel comfortable in. For example, Drama focuses on history and literature, Writer’s Workshop focuses on writing, while Critical Reading centers around reading. Lastly, Interpersonal Communication focuses on speaking.
Having so many options is “important because seniors should be able to explore their interests within the realm of English, such as speech or broadcasting, and shouldn’t be limited to the standard curriculum,” said Bahena.
While there is an enriched-level English class offered to seniors called Enriched World Literature, there is no honors-level class: students who are looking for an advanced, yearlong course must decide between either enriched or AP. Enriched World Literature is just like the other year-long classes, allowing students to develop a sustained set of skills. However, there is no standard-level year-long course for students to choose from if they so desire.
Even though four English credits are required to graduate high school in the state of Illinois, there is no choice of a year-long English class as a way for seniors to get their last credit, and this may be the current trend in education. Other schools, like the Glenbard (North, South, East, and West), also do not offer an English 4 standard-level class either. The same can be said of nearby St. Charles high schools. Like WEGO, the curriculum includes a World/British Literature class, but one without a specific level attached to it.
While students and staff were not certain why West Chicago Community High School did not offer English 4 or English 4 Honors, some were willing to speculate.
“There are probably several reasons, but the biggest one is the desire to offer multiple English course options to seniors, allowing them to take a class or classes that meet their interests and needs for the future. After three years of fairly rigid English instruction in which students have little or no choice, the school has wanted to provide choice to students for their senior year. Over time, British/World Literature, now Enriched World Literature, has informally been the “enriched senior English” option, but it has never been called “English 4,” said English teacher Bradley Larson.
Year-long classes teach students all of the skills over a duration of time instead of only a few of them in a condensed period. Additionally, these classes allow students to focus on developing multiple skills, rather than a handful. For example, a book would be read for the reading skill, then a Socratic seminar offered for both the listening and speaking skills. After the Socratic is over, an essay would be written using the writing skill. Then, the process would be repeated, as needed throughout the year, continuing the development of the skills.
The English division head, Lauren Stewart, said, “When you look at an Enriched World Literature course or AP, they are both stemming from the same essential questions that they are unpacking for the entire year, and they are doing so in a really exciting and interesting way. There are a lot of ways that they assess and evaluate student learning, and have them prove what they learned.”
The school should offer an English 4 standard and honors-level class for seniors to choose from. Some seniors might not like English class very much, but appreciate the consistency a year-long course offers, so they may decide to stay in the standard program.
Others may be tempted to take a more rigorous class, but are not looking for potential college credit. AP classes are a level higher than honors, so that may not suit them either. In that case, an honors-level course might offer more rigor than enriched.
“Currently we’re only given a limited choice of English classes for next year. I believe adding an additional two classes would only be beneficial to our school and in particular our senior students. Having a variety of classes will only bring more opportunities and exploration for preparation, in this case, college. It is important for our seniors to find an interest and having more options is only beneficial. I would most definitely be tempted to take English 4 Honors to further my education and improve my writing and reading skills to prepare for college,” said junior Alexander Orzuna.
Junior Melanie Mendez said, “I personally think it is important to offer a variety of English classes. Having more options for students can help them engage more in the class and actually enjoy learning when they get to choose what they want to do. If I had the choice, I would be tempted to take English 4. Not everyone is interested in the other choices, whether it’s because it bores them or it’s just not their style, if that makes sense. For me, I would want to take English 4 to take a step further from what I have already learned in the past.”
In the future, the school should have an English 4 class: one at the standard-level for those not interested in English, and one at the honors-level for those looking for a challenge. This would let seniors earn their last credit without having to enroll in a specialized class that they dislike. At the same time, anyone who is thinking about a career involving communication could take on the English electives that are most relevant to their interests.