Teachers affect rigor

Come the fourth marking period, most returning East students start lining up their schedules for the next school year and refer to their older friends and siblings for advice on which courses to select. Once students have their courses selected, they decide at what levels to take their classes, which often proves more difficult than it should seem.

East students are offered courses at four different ascending levels of difficulty: Regular (R), Accelerated (A), Honors (H) and Advanced Placement (AP). However, selecting one of these course levels can be deceiving. The class levels often do not reflect the difficulty of the class itself. In many cases, the classifications serve solely as a resume-building mark on a student’s transcript.

For example, a teacher might teach a course at an H or AP level of intensity, even when the student opted to take it as an A level course. The same occurs vice versa, with some students finding an H or AP level course much easier than expected because of the course content or the way the teacher instructs them. And, when students compare their H or AP classes to one of their friend’s A level courses, they sometimes feel surprised at the similarity of their intensities, despite their different level classifications.

When asked about this disparity, an anonymous senior commented that in the past, some of the easier classes he took had teachers that made classes more difficult compared to students taking the same class at a more intense level. The student noted that this disparity in difficulty specifically pertained to his teachers’ grading scales, class content, and more.

Ronak Pathak (‘26), the freshman class president, agrees.

“I am taking several courses at the H level of rigor,” he told Eastside. “I actually discussed my classes with friends taking higher level classes as well as with friends taking lower level classes. I found that in some classes, I receive less work than my friends who take the same class but at a lower level than me.”

Creating additional dialogue between teachers within the same departments offers one potential solution to addressing class level disparities. For example, if teachers discuss their lesson plans, class content and grading scales, among other educational elements, with each other, issues pertaining to course leveling could become nonexistent.

Christopher Berry (‘24) supports that solution, though he thinks that the school could implement other ones that could have more effective results.

“An A level teacher, for example, should take into account that students take a lower level class because they do not know the class’ content as well as an honors student,” Berry told Eastside. “Students sometimes take an A level class because of their lack of familiarity with the class’ content.” And still, students taking these A level classes may have more expectations of them than a student in an H level class, merely because of the teacher to whom they were randomly assigned.

Berry also described to Eastside a specific example he experienced. He explained how, in the past, his accelerated English teacher required him to write an essay early on in the school year, even when honors English students were writing them much later.

Ultimately, the school should work to better address course level disparities. Doing so will ensure that course classification accurately reflects classes’ intensity levels, especially in comparison to higher or lower classifications. It will make selecting one’s class schedule much easier for students and even potentially reduce the amount of students switching class levels at the beginning of the school year.