Why I oppose the inclusion of any AP curriculum at my school

My school was started in 1945 as a progressive school. There is still a progressive ethos alive in our school community, but our position in the DC prep school universe has been challenging our progressive roots for many years now. There are tensions there that are beyond the scope of this post. I just want to list here my reasons for dropping the AP’s from our curriculum.

Teaching to a test is essentially the opposite of progressive education. The progressive education movement exists in stark contrast to the factory model of education. Cramming a proscribed curriculum into our students in a limited time frame essentially excludes the use of great practices like experiential learning, reflection, play, experimentation, inquiry, co-creating curricula… the list goes on.

Furthermore, no self-respecting school should submit its curriculum to College Board for approval. Why my school or any of our peer schools continue to do so is quite beyond me. A former colleague of mine pointed out that the AP curriculum is great for schools that struggle to maintain high standards for their students and teachers. Indeed, College Board‘s stated mission involves equity and access to education for all students. While the AP curriculum may be good for struggling schools, my school is not one of those schools. We have brilliant teachers who are passionate about their subject areas and, like all schools, we have bright, enthusiastic students with minds that are thirsty for truth. Why would I ask the permission of the College Board to teach them as I see fit? Why would I limit my ability to respond to their passions by stepping into the rigid frame of the AP curriculum and testing schedule? Why would I subject my students to the mind numbing anxiety of standardized test preparation?

There are teachers who will claim that there is nothing wrong with certain AP curricula. I know several teachers of calculus, physics and other courses who rightfully say that the material they would cover in an advanced class isn’t that different than the AP curriculum, so what is the harm in it? Even in the absence of a stultifying curriculum, you are still faced with the concept of standardized test preparation, and you are still letting a for-profit corporation tell you not only what you need to cover but also what the deadline is for covering that material.

Sorry for the long rant, but I had to get this off my chest! I welcome any discussion about the AP curriculum. Tonight I am going to learn a little about the upcoming revisions to the AP Chemistry curriculum. Perhaps that will make my predicament more palatable…

*Please note that I am not saying every school should drop AP courses – I can only speak about my school. However, I am saying that my school should drop AP courses and that every school that offers AP courses should interrogate their reasons for doing so.