College Board cancels four A.P. examinations

High-school students looking to get ahead will have fewer ways to do so after the 2008-09 academic year.

The College Board announced last week that it will stop offering four A.P. tests: French Literature, Computer Science AB, Latin Literature and Italian Language and Culture.

The College Board attributed the cancellation to a lack of interest in the tests, but three of the fields will continue to offer tests of some kind — French Language, Computer Science A and Latin Virgil exams will not be affected by the changes.

It is not clear how the changes will affect Yale, which does not accept A.P. credit, but some professors and students interviewed said they are sad to see the demise of the tests, which often helped draw students into these fields and prepared them for the rigor of a Yale education.

Professor Jean-Jacques Poucel, who teaches an introductory French Literature course, said he regrets that the A.P. program will now be offering fewer tests.

“Students who come to Yale having read more books in French are more prepared to study French literature,” he said. “Without having the test, there may not ever be literature courses in high schools.”

But Stanley Eisenstat, director of undergraduate studies for the Computer Science Department, said he does not foresee a radical change in these fields at Yale.

“I do not expect the cancellation to affect how courses are taught in our department or the quality of the incoming student body,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Computer Science professor Holly Rushmeier agreed. Students with a mathematics background can excel just as well as those with a computing background in both the computer science major and the recently approved computing-and-the-arts major.

“Yale students majoring in computer science have a wide variety of backgrounds,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Our courses do not assume any involvement in the College Board’s A.P. program.”

But Kate Archibald ’11, a student in Poucel’s class, said the course helped prepare her for Yale’s curriculum.

“Taking a nationally uniform literature class in high school made me feel more confident about taking a French literature class right away at Yale,” she said. “When I decided I wanted to keep studying French here, I think I had more options. I don’t think I would have been as well prepared for the class I am taking now if I hadn’t taken A.P. Lit.”

Most important for Poucel is that the literature courses continue to be taught, with or without the College Board’s stamp of approval. He said he hopes that the lack of guidelines will allow French Literature teachers more freedom in their choices of varied and interesting works.

Archibald agreed.

“I think that in situations where the end of the A.P. program doesn’t mean that a lit class of some kind won’t be available, there are some definite benefits to escaping the rigidity of an A.P. curriculum,” she said.

Celia Stockwell ’11, who took A.P. Latin Literature at Marlborough High School in Los Angeles, has mixed feelings. She said the allure of an A.P. credit did not motivate her to study Latin.

Stockwell said she regrets the lack of choice that future Latin students will be offered under the new system.

“I’d much rather study Catullus than Virgil,” she said. “His works are much shorter and funnier.”

With the new system, she said, she would have been forced to study Virgil.

Above all, students and professors said they hope the cancellation of the exams will not lessen interest in each of the fields.

“There’s a fairly strong possibility that Latin, German, Greek, will disappear at the high school level,” he said. “French, because of its cultural capital, will remain a strong alternative.”

College Board officials told The Washington Post last week that they will reallocate the funds from these four exams to provide more funding for high-school teachers administering the remaining foreign language exams. The A.P. program currently offers 37 exams.

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