The Advanced Placement English class at Scarsdale High School used to race through four centuries of literature to prepare students for the A.P. exam in May. But in this year’s class, renamed Advanced Topics, students spent a week studying Calder, Pissarro and Monet to digest the meaning of form and digressed to read essays by Virginia Woolf and Francis Bacon — items not covered by the exam.
A similarly slowed-down pace came at a cost for some students in one of Scarsdale’s Advanced Topics classes in United States history; it was still in the 1950s at the time of the exam, whose main essay question was on the Vietnam War.
Sarah Benowich, a senior, said that the A.T. approach had improved her writing but that she would have liked more dates and facts worked in. Despite studying Advanced Placement exam review books on her own, she still felt “shaky on some of the more concrete details,” she said.
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.