Culver City eliminates honors English in attempt to reach racial equity

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Culver City High School is home to the Centaurs. Photo by Amy Ta.

To promote racial equity in education, Culver City High School did away with honors English classes and kept students of all learning levels in one class. Not everyone is happy about the change. 

The proposal for classroom change came from Culver City’s English teachers, who saw racial disparity in their AP classes, which honors students take after ninth and 10th grade. 

“They looked and saw that not enough Black and Latino students were in the class to their liking — compared to the broader student population. And so they were looking for ways to essentially try to remedy this. And they came up with a solution that a few other districts around the country have also done — which is make everything equal in the ninth and 10th Grade English,” notes journalist Sarah Randazzo, who recently covered the situation in Culver City for The Wall Street Journal.

“The board showed that Latino students made up 13% of those in the 12th grade AP English class, compared with 37% of the student body,” Randazzo says. “Asian students, conversely, were 34% of AP English compared to 10% of students. And for Black students, it was 14% of AP English versus 15% of the student body.”  

She says teachers thought, “If everyone's in the same level for these two years, everyone will feel that they have the option of taking AP English later in high school. Before, they said people were essentially in tracks. And if you were an honors kid, you were an honors kid. And if you weren't, you kind of didn't see AP as an option.”

Some parents have been upset by the change, noting that students could opt in to honors classes previously. But Randazzo says, “Teachers are saying, ‘Hey, these kids are kind of stuck with these labels.’ Sometimes as early as even fifth or sixth grade. You're put on the honors track versus not, and kids who aren't in the Honors track think, ‘Oh, I guess I'm not one of the smart kids.’”

Parents put forth a proposal to renew honors classes at a February 14 school board meeting, but it seems unlikely to move forward.