Choate Rosemary Hall, a prestigious private boarding school in Wallingford, Connecticut, has decided to remove AP classes from their curriculum in the 2017-2018 school year.
Teachers have been given discretion over the instruction of their classes and will not have to comply to the standards and curriculum of College Board; however, students are still allowed to, even encouraged to, take the College Board AP exams at the end of the year.
Students had expressed concerns over the effectiveness of College Board curriculum. Teachers and students felt that the restrictions of College Board hindered learning in the most effective manner and prevented a broader discussion of material. This dissent prompted a vote within the faculty to decide the fate of AP courses. The results were staggeringly opposed to furthering those classes.
One of Mt. Hebron’s English teachers and an alumnus of Choate, Ms. Lisa Vitali, offered a different account of her academic experience at Choate than some of the recent classes of students.
“Choate provided me with the best of everything,” Ms. Vitali said. “I had incredible teachers and can’t think of a single one I didn’t enjoy. We had unbelievable freedom when choosing our classes and what seemed like limitless opportunity among those choices. All students at Choate can create academic journeys tailored exactly to their interests.”
Although Choate promises the rigor of the classes offered will remain the same, it is undeniable that the best way to prepare for a test made exclusively by College Board would be to teach according to College Board’s curriculum. By refusing to offer AP classes in the upcoming academic year, Choate is refusing their students the best preparation for a test that, if scored well on, significantly eases any student’s college experience.
Reflecting on her position teaching AP English at Mt. Hebron, Ms. Vitali said, “The College Board curriculum helps hold us accountable as AP teachers and provides us with resources to assist us as we develop our syllabi. I think this is important in Howard County particularly because our class sizes can include up to 33 students. Having a formal guideline to which we can refer students, parents, and teachers across 12 high schools allows us to manage these college-level courses.”
In public school, restructuring an AP course’s curriculum makes it much more difficult for a student to succeed when all of their prerequisite classes were based off of a College Board curriculum that has been abandoned. Years of hard work to prepare students for a class, where the ultimate goal is a passing score on an AP test, is greatly diminished by this new action.
Junior Nick Jackson expressed his concern if Mt. Hebron were not to offer AP courses next year and strayed from the College Board curriculum.
“I would be nervous because of all the emphasis that is placed on AP classes and the way we are made to think we need them to go to a good college,” Jackson said.
However, the setting of a private boarding school that Choate offers might allow them to abandon AP classes without some of the negative effects presented in public schools.
Ms. Vitali discussed these differences in relation to the AP program, saying, “Two of the best things about my high school experience were the complete absence of test-driven instruction and the teachers’ freedom to design curriculum. Because of the small class sizes, dedicated teachers, and students’ commitment to their own education, students are naturally prepared for AP examinations when they finish coursework at Choate.”