Patrick Henry High School cuts honors courses in the name of ‘equity’

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – San Diego’s largest high school, Patrick Henry High School, has cut some honors courses without informing the student’s parents.

As expected, parents are outraged and worries the lack of honors courses will hurt students chances of getting accepted to prestigious universities.

The principal, Michelle Irwin, claims she made the decision in the name of “equity.” Irwin also said cutting the honors courses would remove the stigma from non-honors classes and “eliminate racial disparities in honors enrollment.”

In an email thread obtained by KUSI News, Irwin told concerned parents the entire district has been embracing and promoting “inclusive environments.”

KUSI reached out to Irwin for comment on her decision, but we have not heard back.

KUSI News obtained an email thread between a concerned parent of a Patrick Henry student, Principal Michelle Irwin, and Erin Richardson, Superintendent of Area 6 High Schools for the San Diego Unified School District.

The entire thread is below (First email is at the bottom):

On Fri, Mar 25, 2022 at 11:44 AM Richison Erin <> wrote:

Dear Ms. OXXXXX,

Thank you for reaching out and inquiring about some of the course changes at our high schools. I understand the concerns you have as you look forward to the success of your student(s). I hope this email will explain some of the reasoning behind those changes. We have scheduled some upcoming opportunities for parents to have their concerns addressed personally by academic leaders.

Our commitment as a district is to ensure that all students will graduate with the skills, motivation, curiosity and resilience to succeed in their choice of college and career in order to lead and participate in the society of tomorrow. Providing all students with access to a broad and challenging curriculum is one of the ways we work towards this goal.

Our schools help prepare students by offering classes that both contain the necessary rigor to maintain their academic growth and provide the necessary credit opportunities for those who plan to attend a four-year university.


Providing the most rigorous course of study with AP and Community College, with Honors courses if AP and Community college are not offered, to our students allows for them to be more competitive post-graduation in college, university and the workforce. Rigorous and advanced options continue to be offered in all our high schools: honors, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and college courses. If your student wishes to take a course with increased academic rigor, they will have that opportunity.


Students also continue to enjoy the opportunity to take weighted courses like AP and Community College Courses as well as several Honors courses. While colleges, universities, and workforce partners recognize AP, IB and college courses as being more challenging than entry-level courses and therefore worthy of weighted credit, this is not true for the courses with the word “advanced” in their title..

College Readiness

We strongly believe the changes we’ve recommended will benefit all students by more accurately reflecting both the rigor and credit opportunities provided by courses to help students prepare for both college and career. However, it is equally important to us that all parents feel they have had the opportunity to discuss these issues fully and share their perspectives. For that reason, we are organizing an opportunity this spring for parents and the community to learn more about what college and career readiness means as a graduate of San Diego Unified. We look forward to parents talking directly with some of our educational partners at the university and college level, along with our workforce partners, so you may hear directly how these proposed curriculum changes will positively impact our students after graduation.



Erin Richison, Ed.D.
Area 6 Superintendent, High Schools
San Diego Unified School District
4100 Normal St.
San Diego, CA 92103<>
(619) 581-0883

[SDUSD Primary]

From: XXXX>
Sent: Wednesday, March 2, 2022 5:48 PM
To: Richison Erin
Subject: Fwd: Elimination of Honors Classes

Hello –
I am hoping you can help provide some additional information about what is going on at Henry. Parents are incredibly frustrated at what appears to be a unilateral decision by Ms. Irwin. We know that teachers are angry and unsupportive of these class eliminations. Are the classes made available completely at the discretion of the principal? If we want our children to be able to take the honors classes she is eliminating, are we supposed to just pull our kids out of the school?
The communication on this and other changes have been abysmal and you now have parents who are normally incredibly supportive of the school and the teachers feeling utterly disregarded. I appreciate any context or advice you can provide. I would hate to have to pull my kids out of their neighborhood school.
Thank you,

———- Forwarded message ———
From: Irwin Michelle <<>>
Date: Wed, Mar 2, 2022 at 4:59 PM
Subject: Re: Elimination of Honors Classes
CC: Richison Erin <<>>

Dear Mrs. XXXX,

Thank you for your email.

1.  We had discussions about possible changes in our School Governance Team and then at our articulation meetings held last month. If there are additional changes in the future, I will send information via SchoolMessenger. Thank you for your feedback.
*   All students are required to take two years of PE in grades 9 and 10. This is one of our district expectations. While this does create a wrinkle for some students in our pathways such as Engineering, we have several options for our students. I have recommended students and parents to work directly with our Engineering Counselor, Ms. Labe to review our options.

*   There is no reason to stratify our college prep courses that are unweighted in 9th and 10th grade English as the curriculum is not different in classes such as Advanced Physics/Biology and Seminar English.

2.  As a district, we have embraced and are promoting inclusive environments. I cannot speak about other high schools however I can assure you at Henry, we are creating an inclusive welcoming environment where all students will to grow and thrive.

Thank you for your support and understanding.

Most sincerely,
Michelle Irwin
Patrick Henry High School
6702 Wandermere Drive
San Diego, CA 92120
858.988.2700 ext. 3021
619.229.0370 fax<><<>>

Privileged and Confidential: Information contained in this e-mail is confidential and is to be treated as privileged and confidential. It is intended only for the use of the addressee. If you are not the addressee or the person responsible for delivering it to the person to whom it is addressed, you may not copy, forward or deliver this to anyone else. If you received this e-mail by mistake, please delete it and notify me immediately. Thank you.

Date: Wednesday, March 2, 2022 at 2:57 PM
To: Local Admin <<>>
Cc: Richison Erin <<>>
Subject: RE: Elimination of Honors Classes

Dear Mrs. Irwin –

Thank you for the reply. I understand that you are responding to numerous concerns and complaints about this decision. I have serious concerns about this course of action, which I share below. First, I had two questions in my original email that were not addressed in your response —

1) Was there a communication to parents letting them know about this decision? If not, why not? You said I have incorrect information. In fact, I have zero information from the school, and am only learning of the changes because from other parents.  I’m happy to share correct information, but with no context, it is difficult to do that.

Also related, why did we not receive any communication when you decided to eliminate Advanced Physics and the Seminar program for English? I’m only learning just now that those were pulled. I have a student who would have been in the Seminar program, so certainly feel a communication to impacted parents was warranted. I am disheartened at the lack of transparency or proactive communications to parents when you are making significant decisions that will change and/or potentially negatively impact our student’s competitiveness in college admissions. At a minimum, you should have been proactive and shared your rationale ahead of rolling out changes rather than waiting for parents to hear about it and ask questions. I was also discouraged to hear that declined to sit down with parents to discuss changes like this one, the change to the grading policy, new changes impacting students in the Engineering program, etc. I hope you reconsider and offer parents a forum to understand the changes, and also to understand their options.

2) Is this happening at other high schools in the district, or just at Henry? If this approach is superior, why is it not widespread?

In terms of the policy itself, I believe that this approach will greaten the academic divide at the school, and put unnecessary pressure on higher achieving students. My junior opted to take Honors Chem this year because he was already taking AP US History class and didn’t need the added stress of a second AP class. Eliminating the option for students to take a weighted, more accelerated class and forcing them to take on more AP classes does not seem to provide the well-balanced course offering — rather, it seems like the opposite.

I would also like to understand the “stigma of non-weighted course.” My kids take a mixture of accelerated and general classes and neither are aware of a stigma. Can you help us understand that stigma and how eliminating honors classes alleviates that?

Again, rather than having to answer these questions through individual emails, I hope parents will be given the courtesy of a dialogue with you so we can make the right choices about our children’s educations.

Thank you –


—–Original Message—–

From: Irwin Michelle <<>>

Sent: Tuesday, March 1, 2022 5:07 PM


Subject: Re: Elimination of Honors Classes


Thank you for reaching out to me. After many conversations with key partners in education including SGT, I have decided to align our 11th grade courses with those that currently exist in 10th and 12th grade. This includes eliminating legacy English and history honors courses which are only offered in the 11th grade. (There are no Honors course offerings in 9th, 10th or 12th grades.) Next year, we will offer American Literature / AP Literature and US History / AP US History. There is very little difference in the curriculum between Honors/Regular so there is no reason to have two classes of the same curriculum. These adjustments will:

*   Create more balanced heterogeneously grouped classes;

*   Eliminate the stigma of non-weighted courses;

*   Provide a well-balanced course offering for all students.

The alignment of our 11th grade humanities course offerings to our other grade levels will provide a rigorous educational experience for all students at Henry because we believe opportunity should always precede student achievement. We will continue offer Honors courses in Pre-Calculus, Computer Science, Spanish 7-8, just to name a few, because there isn’t an AP or weighted equivalent. And, of course, we will offer a variety of Mesa College Courses that allow students to earn college and high school credits with a weighted GPA. So, the information you received that all Honors courses are eliminated is inaccurate.

Hope this information is helpful.

Most sincerely,



Michelle Irwin


Patrick Henry High School

6702 Wandermere Drive

San Diego, CA 92120

858.988.2700 ext. 3021

619.229.0370 fax<><<>>

Privileged and Confidential: Information contained in this e-mail is confidential and is to be treated as privileged and confidential. It is intended only for the use of the addressee. If you are not the addressee or the person responsible for delivering it to the person to whom it is addressed, you may not copy, forward or deliver this to anyone else. If you received this e-mail by mistake, please delete it and notify me immediately. Thank you.


Date: Tuesday, March 1, 2022 at 10:18 AM

To: Local Admin <<>>

Subject: Elimination of Honors Classes

Hello – I’ve heard rumors that Henry is going to eliminate Honors classes, and I have a few questions.

First, is that correct? Was there a communication to parents? Is this for Henry only or is it a SDUSD decision?

I am hearing that parents and teachers are upset and concerned – but was surprised that this hasn’t been explained ahead of students selecting classes.

I’d appreciate any clarity or context you can provide.

Thank you –




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