The high school’s ’24-’25 Program of Studies, released to students in early February, introduces two new Advanced Placement (AP) courses. The addition of AP English Language and Composition and AP Research provides students the opportunity to opt into more classes that reflect or pique their interests, and could potentially translate into college credit.

The middle school and high school’s year-to-year curricula are voted on by the School Committee, with the Superintendent, and Student Advisory Representatives in attendance. The Program of Studies for next year had been discussed in a remote meeting held last November, and it had officially been released to students in February in light of course selection. 

The AP course additions made by the School Committee answer a growing demand from students and parents for more standardized advanced courses. Generally, issues that become popular items of student discussion like APs can be relayed from the School Committee’s Student Advisory Council during meetings by representatives in the high school.

“Our voice does hold some weight, because the student community would go to us, and we could inform them,” said Armita Hamrah ’25, a member of the Student Advisory Council. “Just within the administration, if we bring something forward, people take more time to listen to it, which means that we do have some sort of influence.”

Unlike other English classes taught at the high school, AP Language emphasizes a more specialized, exclusive study of rhetoric in short texts. Although it will only be available for juniors and seniors next year — and just juniors the year after —  the addition of the class still represents a departure from Wellesley’s historical lack of access to any AP English courses.

“There are a lot of reasons why we decided to go with it,” said Mr. John Finneron, English department head. “One of them is certainly that we were hearing from the community and from the district that it was something to look at, people were interested in it.”

In addition to the college credit and similar rigor to Honors junior English, for Valé Sanchez ’26, who will be taking AP Language next year, a primary motive was the different course content. “It’s a lot of analysis, and a lot of close reading, more than anything,” they said.

The nonfiction emphasis, Finneron emphasized, would also be new among English courses already offered by the high school. “AP Lang is heavily nonfiction, and we did not have a course that is so heavily nonfiction. That was another way in which it offered something that we don’t quite have,” said Finneron.

As the last department to have an AP, English teachers in the high school had previously hesitated on adding any College Board courses. They specifically designed the Honors curriculum to be as academically demanding as AP, opening up the door for students to take more English electives: the largest concern was that those open electives would be compromised by a hardline AP.

“We don’t want to start having our own courses competing with each other,” said Finneron. “And a student who feels like oh, well, I need to take AP, and though I really want to take World Literature or something to feel like they’re in this tug and pull.”

Complementing this year’s new AP Seminar course, AP Research completes College Board’s Capstone Diploma Program, which serves to develop research, analysis, writing, and presenting skills rather than instruct on specific content. As a prerequisite course, AP Seminar students this year can directly take AP Research next year, where their learning will culminate in an academic paper and presentation.

Although the course itself will now be available to register for, only five students currently enrolled in AP Seminar are eligible to do so, suggesting that the class wouldn’t run by next year without the seven student class quota. Additionally, most of the students who do qualify, rising juniors, have ultimately chosen not to register in anticipation of their overall workload next year.

In addition to the AP courses that had been publicly approved last November, Spanish for Heritage Speakers: Nuestras Raíces, and The Science of Happiness and Well-Being have been added to the ’24-’25 curriculum. Although the ’25-’26 curriculum has not been solidified yet, AP Modern World History has already been approved to replace the Honors counterpart for sophomores.

Yet, despite similarities in course content between the Honors and AP Modern World History courses, standardized College Board guidelines that oversee AP courses impose an immediate learning curve when students transition from one environment to the other. Moreover, the gap between non-Honors and AP could widen discouragingly for students.

“They’re removing Honors, and that’s the exact problem,” said Hamrah. “The curriculum for Honors and AP [Modern World History] is so similar, and the issue becomes that a lot of kids in ACP or who wouldn’t otherwise take Honors are going to be offset by it.”

Wellesley’s changing course offerings, which follow suit to more standardized academics, can translate into the local environment itself — potentially affecting student learning in a negative way. The AP additions certainly respond to student needs, but create even more potential dilemmas as students tread the fine line between the healthiness and toxicity of a changing school culture.

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