Do schools offer alternative essays?


Ben Pegg

A photo of a typical assessment.

Ben Pegg, Staff Writer

For the most part, I have had alternatives and/or extended deadlines due to Cerebral Palsy. The question was posed; “Do schools offer alternative essays?” I was surprised to find that for the most part the answer is no, but can change on a case by case basis depending on the class, usually English and history classes.

Most students would say that the school does not offer alternative essays because they do not see what a normal assignment looks like, for example, an essay, multiple choice test or three minute speech. However, Principal Ryan Woods would argue that while teachers individually can, they choose not to in most cases. “I think most do, I would say teachers do offer alternative assessments to a different type of assessment, whether that’s a speech, a project, a test, a paper, whatever,” Woods said. “Teachers always have the right to offer something alternative to students, although I think that that alternative should be guided by what exactly the standard is we’re assessing.”

The Document Based Questions, or DBQ’s that all world studies students know and love (or loathe) are one, because when they, as a world history student, write or wrote one, they would use bucketing and common questions to make a stereotypical essay, which is the only thing most students see out of the entire process, almost like an english assignment.

Even within the English department, teachers, such as English Teacher Ed Walker, still offer alternatives. “I think what we try to do is try to help students find a way to grow, so maybe they would give one of their speeches to a small group of students, and then maybe later in the semester to a large group… so I think that the answer is yes,” Walker said.

Advanced Placement English Courses offer more freedom to students when it comes to the format of their writing because it is assumed that they already know the basics. “In AP Lang there’s a lot more choice.” Walker said.  “Right now we’re working on a piece that… rejects the form of essay writing that we often teach in other classes, to find a new way of doing it,” Which is again in the literary and/or history department. 

The school offers a wide variety of alternative assignments on a case by case scenario. The students simply cannot see it because it is so limited to Advanced Placement Language and Comprehension and Social Studies courses, for the most part. It is also limited to those students who might need special accommodations for assignments and/or tests. If students want to find alternative assignments, they need to look harder for them.