According to an article in The New York Times, “A year after Scarsdale became the most prominent school district in the nation to phase out the College Board’s Advanced Placement courses — and make A.P. exams optional — most students and teachers here praise the change for replacing mountains of memorization with more sophisticated and creative curriculums.”
A handful of exclusive private schools, including Ethical Culture Fieldston, Dalton and Calhoun in New York City, have abolished Advanced Placement courses in recent years, but Scarsdale has set a precedent for high-achieving public schools. It did so deliberately, investing $40,000 to bring in 25 professors from Harvard, Yale, New York University and other top colleges to help develop the Advanced Topics curriculum, and having guidance counselors contact admissions officers at 130 selective schools to explain the change and gauge any concerns.
“We have the luxury of being able to move beyond the A.P.,” John Klemme, Scarsdale’s principal, said in a recent interview. “If people called it a gold curriculum in the past, I refer to this version as the platinum curriculum.”
For instance, art students have been newly liberated to draw large-scale works rather than adhere to the College Board’s 18-by-24-inch parameters. Physics students now study string theory — a hot topic in some college courses that is absent from the Advanced Placement exam. And the advanced government class takes a three-day field trip to conduct primary research at Harvard’s Kennedy School, something teachers say would have been impossible with the intense Advanced Placement schedule.
The College Board, a nonprofit organization, derives about a third of its $600 million revenue annually from Advanced Placement exams, which cost students $86 each (schools can keep $8 of that fee to pay for proctors and professional development). Schools do not pay to run A.P. courses.