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Are AP Courses Still Necessary?

June 25, 2018
Written by Taylor

Eight private schools in the Washington, D.C. area are taking part in a recent educational trend: dropping out of the Advanced Placement Program. These schools—Georgetown Day, Holton-Arms, Landon, Maret, National Cathedral, Potomac, St. Albans, and Sidwell Friends—have joined other elite schools, in the Northeast and elsewhere, in phasing out AP courses in favor of offering their own rigorous curricula. This move comes in response to what such schools see as a devaluing of the AP Program’s utility in college admissions. With more and more students amassing high numbers of AP courses on transcripts and taking the corresponding AP exams, the most elite high schools in the country are questioning whether these tests truly help to differentiate top college applicants from their peers anymore.

For these top high schools, who have the name recognition and resources to offer equally- or more-rigorous courses to replace AP offerings, this decision is unlikely to have a negative effect on their graduates in the college admissions process. Admissions officers at various colleges and universities say that AP courses do not have a monopoly on rigor; as long as students can demonstrate that they have succeeded in a rigorous curriculum, they will not suffer any consequences for not having AP courses on their transcripts. However, these officials warn, schools without the cachet of these elite institutions should be cautious if they decide to drop out of the AP Program, since AP courses are still a useful national benchmark for rigor and an important method for offering an appropriately challenging curriculum.

Experts say that these private schools could herald a new step in a series of wide-reaching curriculum changes as more and more people join the conversation about what effective education looks like, as well as how schools can reduce stress for overburdened high school students. Keep an eye out for other schools who may decide to drop out of the AP Program, but don’t be alarmed: AP courses still play a role in college admissions.

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