Evanston Township High School students have been offered the opportunity to transfer into advanced placement (AP) English or an English elective in lieu of the standard senior English course after it was revealed during public comment at the Sept. 8 School Board meeting that all senior English classes are now mixed-level, instead of single-level, as has been the case in the past.

ETHS parent Libby Ester said, “It wasn’t until the first day of classes this year that students were notified that the honors [and other levels] had been combined into a single course.” She said that parents “received letters no earlier than Wednesday of [the week before school started].”

Although a proposal to change the nature of the freshman humanities program at District 202 received a significant amount of public discussion and notice last spring, no such attention accompanied the similarly broad change to the senior English class structure implemented this school year.

The move, affecting almost half the senior class, appeared to come as a surprise to some administrators, including Superintendent Eric Witherspoon, who had no comment after the Board meeting.

Parents were informed by a letter dated Aug. 28 and signed by Judith Ruhana, English department chair, that “the department has decided to combine all sections of senior English.” The letter invited parents to attend a meeting on Sept. 9, a week after classes began “to answer any questions that you might have.” About 370 students, half the senior class, are enrolled in senior English. Others take AP-level English, electives or Senior Studies.

Dr. Witherspoon later told the RoundTable that 16 parents attended the Sept. 9 informational meeting.

He also said that the change had been made by Ms. Ruhana, who worked with Dr. Laura Cooper, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, on the basis of a “successful” pilot program last year of eight mixed-level classes. However, he added, “the model we used when making the change in Freshman Humanities is the model a chair is expected to follow whenever a significant change is being considered. There should have been opportunities for public discussion about changes in senior English, and changes should have been communicated to parents and students sooner. I have taken steps to make sure that in the future chairs follow our established process for making any significant changes in their department.”