College Board To Cancel Four AP Exams

After next year, Phillips Academy students in French Literature, Latin Literature and Computer Science will no longer be able to take the Advanced Placement tests in their respective subjects. The College Board will no longer offer exams in AP French Literature, AP Computer Science AB, AP Latin Literature, and AP Italian after May 2009, it announced on April 3. Trevor Packer, AP Program Vice President, told The Washington Post that the eliminated classes are “all less commonly taught disciplines in high schools.” According to The Washington Post, the funds from these four exams will be reallocated to provide more funding for high school teachers administering the remaining foreign language exams. The most popular AP subjects reach hundreds of thousands of students every year, whereas the AP subjects soon to be cut each serve fewer than 4,000 students a year. Charles Clerc, Chair of the French Department, said that the French Department considered dropping the AP label for French Literature even before the College Board decided to cancel the AP. “You don’t need a special curriculum for AP French Language, but for AP French Literature there is a reading list that takes all year to get through. The list consists of all classical pieces, such as poetry from the 16th century. It’s very intense in terms of literature and can get tiring in a year-long course,” Clerc, who teaches the AP French Literature course, said. “In the end, the label was maintained because of tradition and the prestige associated with the literature exam,” he continued. Many teachers said they thought that the College Board syllabus was narrow and believe that upcoming curriculum modifications of the affected AP classes will be beneficial overall to the courses. Teachers are excited for their newfound freedom in establishing a more flexible curriculum. Clerc said, “The new curriculum is going to be better, since we will be free to teach more books written by 20th-century authors and even incorporate some movies and songs into the syllabus. What we lose in prestige, we will make up for in creativity.” The AP Computer Science AB curriculum at Andover will also be dropping some topics in favor of new course topics from the College Board Computer Science A syllabus. According to Maria Litvin, Instructor in Mathematics, low enrollment levels in this exam are mainly due to the course’s difficulty level. Litvin teaches Comp 500, the AP Computer Science course. She said, “It’s clear that the new course will be less demanding, so I hope that this will bring new students to the course. Every year, some students who sign up in September find that the pace is too fast and drop the course. Hopefully, the new curriculum will enable students to hold on.” “The changes will give students a little more time to learn a new language. There will be less stress involved in making the transition from Python [the programming language taught in the introductory computer class] to Java,” Litvin said. Yiwei Li ’09, a student in Litvin’s Comp 500 class, said, “The College Board seems to think the AB exam is too hard. I wouldn’t agree, because high school students are definitely capable of doing well on the AP Computer Science AB exam, if they put in enough effort.” John Heroy ’08, another Comp 500 student, said, “Data structures can be tough but useful in the future. I’m probably going to continue taking some programming courses in college, although not as my major.” Elizabeth Meyer, Instructor in Latin, said, “At first I was indignant [that AP Latin Literature will be cancelled], but the more I think about it, the happier I am about the College Board canceling the Latin Literature AP.” Like Clerc, Meyer believes that the cancellation of the AP Latin Literature test will allow for more freedom within the course. The advanced Latin courses at Andover are not officially labeled AP courses. “The College Board is getting very controlling. [The AP Program] wanted me to send them a detailed syllabus that met all [its] conditions. Otherwise, [the AP program] wouldn’t give the school approval to call the course an AP,” Meyer said. “The truth is, whether or not it’s called an AP, the [Latin Literature] course covers everything on the AP syllabus and students that complete the course are very well prepared for the exam,” she continued. Other teachers agree that students will learn just as much in a course that is not geared towards the AP. Natalie Schorr ’62, Instructor in French, said, “One of the most important aspects of learning a language is continuity. We have strong language programs at Andover, so I think you will have a good course and be well prepared without a course being called an AP course.” “One thing that I am definitely going to do is to continue providing a summer reading list, so students have a road map to French literature. It gives examples of what’s out there. French Literature has an amazing number of great writers,” said Schorr. Despite the many curriculum possibilities, many students and faculty are still reluctant to see these AP Programs disappear. “Across the country there are some teachers that are really fuming [about the cancellation of AP Computer Science]. It’s like if we have a JV and Varsity team, and you’re taking away our Varsity. Often times, the additional topics taught in Computer Science AB really help define whether or not students like programming and would like to continue it in the future,” said Litvin. Lydia Smith ’09 said, “French Literature has been one of the most interesting courses I’ve taken at Andover. Students will be missing out on a true literature-based course. Culture is important, but reading, writing, and analysis are essential skills to have. You can gain a more profound understanding of the language, instead of just sitting around and eating crêpes.” Emerson Moore ’08 said, “As a senior, I’m really glad I’m not taking a three-hour exam, but in general it would be a shame to lose the French Literature class. I hope the class continues in some form, since a lot of people like to learn in a non-language based way, where it’s not just grammar, but also politics and other topics.” “French Literature is a little more difficult than French Language, so there are fewer participants. The French Literature exam may be too expensive for the College Board to maintain, since they need teachers to read all the essays,” Clerc said. Latin scholar Gen Clark ’08 said, “The structure of the [Latin Literature] course is so different from Virgil, so it’s nice to always have an alternative course that’s less reading intensive and more analytical.” The College Board has no plans to further eliminate courses in the AP Program.