Eight DC private schools to remove AP courses

Chloe Fatsis and Elie Salem

Eight of DC’s most renowned private schools have committed to ending their Advanced Placement (AP) courses by 2022. The schools stated that AP courses discourage students from taking other classes they are more interested in and diminish the depth of learning in the classroom. The move comes amidst similar removals of AP course options in New York and Connecticut.

These private schools are Georgetown Day School, Holton-Arms School, Landon School, Maret School, National Cathedral School, The Potomac School, St. Albans School, and Sidwell Friends School. Maret does not currently offer AP courses, but joined with the other schools to express similar rationale and solidarity with its fellow private schools.

The schools believe that the benefits of AP classes, namely the attractiveness on a college resume, discourage students from taking non-AP electives. “The perception that colleges demand AP courses leads many students, perhaps reluctantly, to pass up other classes they might find more intellectually transformative and rewarding,” the eight headmasters said in a joint statement.

Their second grievance lies in the rigor of AP courses themselves: an advanced, non-AP class may have the leisure to study smaller topics in deeper detail, whereas AP courses can be forced to sacrifice depth when dissecting the wide breadth of information being tested on the AP exam. In AP World History, for example, a student begins their studies with the Neolithic Revolution, which took place around 10,000 BCE, and ends with globalization and the challenges of the early 21st century.

Since dropping so many well-known courses at once could cause anger among students and parents, many of the schools decided to eliminate AP courses over the next couple years. “This move toward new courses will take time,” said Scott Butterworth, director of communications at National Cathedral School. “Some academic departments at NCS have already made the switch, while others will take the next couple of years to adjust their curriculum.”

Wilson remains one of the many schools that offers AP courses in the District and is maintaining its AP course offerings for the coming years. Director of Wilson’s College and Career Services Patrice Arrington, explained the reasoning behind Wilson’s support of AP classes.. “AP classes can be as challenging as introductory college courses.  They are fast-paced and cover more material than regular classes. Getting this kind of college prep work could ease your transition from high school to your first year of college.”

The private schools, however, surveyed 150 college admissions officers before their decision and concluded that colleges evaluate students’ course rigor relative to their school’s offerings, whether that includes AP courses or not.