WASHINGTON, D.C. (ABC NEWS)- High schools have long prized advanced placement courses designed to challenge students to achieve a higher, college-level academic standard, but now an elite group of private schools is phasing out the program.
On Monday, a group of eight high-profile private schools in the Washinton D.C. area announced they would be getting rid of the AP courses over the next four years.
“Collectively, we believe a curriculum oriented toward collaborative, experiential, and interdisciplinary learning will not only better prepare our students for college and their professional futures, but also result in more engaging programs for both students and faculty,” the schools said in a joint statement. “We expect this approach will appeal to students’ innate curiosity, increase their motivation, and fuel their love of learning.”
For many years, The College Board has offered the AP program, which is a college-level curriculum with final exams that can count toward credit or higher placements at some universities, to high school students.
The announcement that the schools will phase out the program comes on the heels of the University of Chicago’s decision to no longer require prospective students to submit SAT scores along with their admissions applications.
Susanna Jones, head of school at Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland, is one of seven administrators who contributed to an op-ed piece in the Washington Post after the announcement.
Jones told ABC News’ Brad Mielke that the decision was influenced, in part, by the thought that fewer universities are accepting AP courses and test scores for college credit.
“Fewer and fewer colleges are actually giving credit anymore,” Jones said on ABC News’ daily podcast, “Start Here.” “The whole AP program has changed significantly from its original purpose, which was to provide advanced credit to a fairly small group of students. And now there are millions of students who take those classes and, as a result of that, colleges aren’t treating them with the same weight that they used to.”
She said the decision was also based on communicating with colleges about what they’re looking for from advanced students.
“The second thing is the getting into college piece and we have surveyed hundreds of colleges and we have been reassured by college admissions officers that what’s important to them is that students are taking the most rigorous program that’s appropriate for them, that’s offered by the school they are attending,” Jones said. “If there are no AP courses, then they’re taking whatever those advanced courses are that are not AP courses.”
The eight elite schools proposing the change are well-recognized and have the resources to create a new, equally challenging curriculum; Sidwell Friends is one of the schools, the alma mater of former President Barack Obama’s daughters Malia and Sasha Obama.
While these schools have the means to restructure lesson plans, course material and tests accordingly, some less affluent schools may still need to rely on the AP program to set forth a higher course plan. Jones said every school will be different.
“That is a far-larger question that gets at a whole host of issues related to our educational system and I don’t feel qualified fully to answer that question because I think it varies from school to school,” she said.
If a student at one of the eight schools eliminating the AP program still wishes to pursue college credit through scores, they can still take the AP tests.
“If a student wants to take the exam in a subject, [the student] can do that. We’re not saying we won’t offer the tests, what we’re saying is we’re not going to teach classes that directly prepare you for the test,” Jones explained. “Very, very few of our students use those credits that they have to go through school faster than four years. It’s very rare.”