Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Advanced placement irks some high schools

Despite recent controversy about the College Board’s Advanced Placement curriculum in a handful of elite high schools across the nation, local schools continue to show support for the program.

The program came under attack recently by schools such as New York City’s Ethical Culture Fieldston School, which dropped the courses from its curriculum last year after complaining that AP courses focus on breadth rather than depth of material. Fieldston said that this approach restricts teacher creativity and limits students’ learning experiences.

“We were finding that teachers, especially in broad survey courses like AP American history, could not elaborate on themes students found interesting because they had to cover too much material,” said Ginger Curwen, a spokeswoman for the school. “Now students can take more specific classes like Cold War history or Native American history and learn a fair deal more.”

Local schools don’t find the same problems with the AP program and continue including it as part of their curricula.

“I think the program is very credible,” said Laura Cooper, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at Evanston Township High School. “We have not limited anything. In fact, we have continued to expand the number of AP programs available.”

Officials from New Trier High School in Winnetka agreed AP classes are valuable.

“I think the AP program is good because it gives kids the opportunity to challenge themselves,” said Peter Webb, secretary to the director of testing services at New Trier. “AP classes are reflective of college courses, and if that means they lack depth, that’s not the fault of the program.”

Cooper said introductory university classes are not challenging students who took AP courses in high school.

“The universities have not kept pace with what freshmen are prepared to take,” Cooper said. “The most common complaint I get is that students go off to college and are not as engaged or challenged as they were by AP courses at ETHS.”

Northwestern officials said the school gives credit for high AP scores.

“We haven’t changed the program at all in the past few years,” said Richard Weimer, assistant dean of Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. “I personally consider it very credible. I see students coming to us very well prepared having taken AP courses in high school.”

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Carol Lunkenheimer said although AP courses are “considered tougher than honors classes,” students are “examined in the context of their respective high schools” to ensure they are not penalized if their high schools do not offer the courses.

“We look to see how challenging the curriculum is and expect the students to take a good proportion of the hardest classes,” said Elizabeth Enciso, assistant director of admissions. “It doesn’t matter whether that class is an AP or not.”

Other top universities including Harvard and Stanford agree that it is more important to take challenging classes than courses with the AP label.

“Stanford said they knew what great and challenging courses we had, and that the lack of APs would not affect our students at all,” Curwen said.

The AP program is a way for high school students to earn college credit through a series of courses and exams before they step onto university campuses as freshmen.

Despite evidence that APs are not a free ticket into college, the popularity of the program has increased in recent years.

“We got between 4,000 and 5,000 scores last year for an entering class of about 2,000,” Weimer said. “That’s a lot of scores. The AP program is big business.”

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Advanced placement irks some high schools