Officials overseeing the Advanced Placement program have announced that they intend to drop AP classes and exams in four subject areas, in a pullback expected to affect about 12,500 students and 2,500 teachers worldwide.
Following the end of the 2008-09 academic year, there will be no AP courses or exams in Italian, Latin literature, French literature, and computer science AB, said officials at the College Board, the New York City-based nonprofit organization that owns the AP brand.
The College Board has in past years withdrawn one undersubscribed AP course at a time, but has never taken so many courses off its table of offerings in the half-century since the program started as a way for students to take college-level courses and potentially earn college credit while still in high school.
Trevor Packer, the College Board vice president who oversees the AP program, said the decision was made at a trustee meeting on March 27, and that AP teachers in the affected subjects were notified by e-mail April 3. “Of course, it’s sad for them,” he said of the teachers.
Mr. Packer said the decision was made principally because of demographic considerations.
Only a tiny fraction of the members of underrepresented minority groups who take AP exams take the tests in one of those four affected subject areas, he said.
The College Board has made it a priority to reach such students, including those who are African- American and Hispanic.
“For us, [the question is], are we able to achieve our mission of reaching a broader range of students?” Mr. Packer said.
He added that no additional AP courses would be cut for at least the next five years.
He said the decision was not connected to results from the recently released national audit of AP course syllabuses. (“Number of Schools Offering AP Falls After First Audit of Courses,” March 14, 2007.)
Mr. Packer noted that the Italian program was 400 percent over budget, owing to the small number of students taking the exams.
The Italian program is the only one among the subjects that would not be represented in some other way in the AP program.
The College Board will continue to offer AP French Language, for example, and introductory-level computer science.
Mr. Packer also held out the possibility that the Italian program might be saved if outside money were forthcoming.
“This wasn’t a situation of us going to the trustees and saying we need to cut costs,” he said, but a question of deploying resources “less diffusely.”