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AP Latin Literature Cancelled -- Please Add Your Name


As many of you know, AP Latin Literature is being cancelled, although AP Vergil will remain in place for the immediate future. Please read the letter from the AP in the news section on the right and the letter from Ronnie Ancona in the Blog, and if you feel strongly about keeping the AP Latin Literature program alive and active in the United States, please add a comment to this post with your name and school affiliation attached. I will collect these in preparation for what is sure to be a counter-offensive by some of the leading lights in US Classics education. Thanks for adding your names to the list.

Andrew Reinhard
Director of eLearning
Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers

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Based on the article from April 9th edition of Education Week which I posted, economics has nothing to do with the decision, but rather racial demographics (which may have led to economic concerns):

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.
Well, I am very upset. We flip flop our AP curricula so that students who want to continue with Latin can take the first AP junior year and the second one senior year. We do not have another teacher to add a course, so we need to have all the AP students in one class. This will seriously affect our students. Currently I have two former students majoring in classics, one at Harvard and one at UVA. This would not have happened without the opportunity to take both those AP courses. Whoever made this decision is clearly not an educator!! Hope we will be able to get this decision reversed.
So let me get this straight...according to Trevor Packer, "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." And it is cited that "The College Board has made it a priority to reach such students,
including those who are African-American and Hispanic."

So the way to reach these groups is to cut off the number of ways to reach them? On what planet does this make sense? There was a time when it was difficult enough for members of so-called underrepresented minorities to attain an education on equally footing with that of their majority peers, let alone gain access to the world of Classics with its disparagingly (and incorrectly) termed "dead, white, European males." Yet Richard T. Greener, Edward Wilmot Blyden, and William Sanders Scarborough, the first three African-Americans to join the APA managed to do so. Scarborough wrote, "The men and women of those days thought more of scholarship and less of prejudice; the color of a man made no difference with them. It was his standing as a scholar and as a representative of American scholarship that counted."

Is it possible that the end of the 19th century was more enlightened regarding race relations than we are today? Is it possible that nearly a hundred years before the Civil Rights movement citizens of this country were more effective at reaching out to everyone? I doubt it. I think Dr. Scarborough made the statements he did in part because it was an extraordingary environment he found in the APA. It was the Classics community being nobly at odds with the surrounding society. How can we take a step backward now by denying opportunities to the very groups of people we claim we are trying to embrace?

Steve Perkins
I have taken a look at the AP report to the nation, and this quote pops out:

An equity and excellence gap appears whenever the
percentage of underserved students achieving access to
and success on AP Exams is less than the percentage
of underserved students in the entire class of 2007. In
other words, if 20 percent of students in the entire high
school cohort are African American, true equity and
excellence would not be achieved until 20 percent of
the students taking AP Exams, and scoring 3 or better,
are African American as well.

I may be misreading this, but it sounds as if they are seeking not equality in access, that is, the chance for any student, regardless of category, to take an AP test, but an equality in outcome, that is, that we will make sure that our population sample scoring X will match the demographics of the school.

How is it that we as teachers, or the College Board, guarantee something like that?
Peter Roden, T.C. Williams HS and University of Mary Washington (majoring in Religion and Classics)
This is a real shame, I must admit, and it really altered my electives at school, so now I am compelled to take this course next year. But the main point is that many people are not learning their Latin, and I think it is sad that a classical education is gradually falling out of favor. This act is substantial evidence of that.
I had to reverse my options and offer Catullus again next year so that I could buy one extra year to figure out what I am going to do now that I will no longer be able to offer both exams. The disappointment in my lower level kids is amazing since they had all heard how fun Catullus is.
-Craig Bebergal
Florida State University School
Latin is vitally important to becoming a well rounded individual. Students should be given the opportunity should be able to read a wide variety of Latin authors, not just Vergil. Vergil is certainly necessary in any Latin program, but a student with only limited exposure to Latin authors will have a much harder time keeping up with college level Latin classes if they decide to continue their studies of the language. Also, the timing of this decision is extremely unfair to teachers who have only a limited time to readjust their curriculum should it come to that. Keep the AP Latin Literature exam!

Katie Patterson
Miami University of Ohio-B.A. in Classics
University of Pittsburgh-MLIS candidate
A true tragedy, but reflective of the attitude of education administrators throughout our various systems, except perhaps Texas - Death to the Classics - Death to the curricula that bore the humanistic and liberal education system. Let's kill it before we are once again reminded how dependent the West is on Socrates, Plato, Cicero, and Seneca. Let's erase our "irrelevant" past. Obviously Ph.D's and tenure are not always evidence of wisdom.
Jordan Bock
Fort Worth Country Day
----- Original Message -----
From: Packer, Trevor
To: Ronnie Ancona
Sent: Monday, April 21, 2008 9:34 AM
Subject: RE: sharing your response about AP Latin

Thanks for asking, Ronnie, and you’re right, I have no concerns with you sharing my note to you.
This is the reply I received April 16 from Trevor Packer (in answer to my letter to the College Board Trustees):

----- Original Message -----
From: Packer, Trevor
To: rancona@hunter.cuny.edu
Cc: Caperton, Gaston ; Sexton, Dorothy ; Monk, James ; Kabbaz, Michael
Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2008 5:25 PM
Subject: re: cancellation of Latin Literature AP

Dear Professor Ancona:

At the request of Gaston Caperton, I’m responding to the thoughtful and valuable feedback you sent to Gaston and the rest of the College Board’s trustees. Dorothy Sexton will share with them a copy of this response to your inquiry.

First and foremost, thank you for taking the time to share your feedback on the discontinuation of one of the two AP Latin Exams. We value the study of Latin just as we value the study of other subjects ranging from Biology to German to Art History, for each of which we offer one, high-quality AP Examination. We want to provide the same level of support for Latin as we do for other AP subject areas, but this entails focusing our efforts on one rather than two separate AP Latin courses.

Our committees share your sense that it may be better to embed a variety of literature in the one AP Latin course we will sustain, rather than having it focus solely on Vergil. Accordingly, we will be convening this coming academic year a college faculty colloquium comprised of professors from fifty of the top classics and language departments nationwide to advise us on how we can make the remaining AP Latin program the best possible capstone experience for secondary school students seeking credit, placement, and further Latin studies in higher education. We would welcome your involvement in that colloquium, so that our committee can benefit from your input and perspective.

James Monk or Michael Kabbaz, the AP directors responsible for the AP Latin Faculty Colloquium, will send you an invitation later in the year for this important event, which will guide the future of the AP Latin program--a future that we anticipate will foster continued passion for such important studies.

Thanks again for taking the time to share your perspective, and for the tremendous work you have done over the years to support the AP Latin program.


Trevor Packer
Vice President
Advanced Placement Program
The College Board
45 Columbus Avenue
New York, NY 10023

T: (212) 373-8716
F: (212) 262-0946
my response to his response in next posting for reasons of space...
continuation from previous posting - Ancona reply

This is my reply to Trevor Packer:
----- Original Message -----
From: Ronnie Ancona
To: TPacker@collegeboard.org
Cc: GCaperton@collegeboard.org
Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2008 11:16 PM
Subject: AP Latin

Dear Mr. Packer,

Thank you for your speedy response to my e-mail. It is reassuring to know that the College Board does listen to and respond to letters like mine. I appreciate the invitation to participate in discussion of the future of the Latin AP program along with other college level Latin faculty.

I remain very concerned, though, about the decision the College Board has taken and its consequences for Latin AP and the Latin profession as a whole, including secondary school and college programs. In addition, Latin students and teachers are puzzled as to why a currently successful program with two exams is being cut back. There are Latin programs that count on the availability of two Latin exams, some to offer students a stronger background in Latin by giving them the opportunity to take two years of AP Latin, the way they might take AP Biology and AP Chemistry, and others to enable their advanced level Latin courses just to survive. For example, a teacher from Athens, Georgia, who has a small but solid Latin AP program in a school that is over 70% minority and over 50% on free and reduced lunch can maintain her AP program only by combining all levels above Latin II in one class and alternating the two AP Latin syllabi. Thus, there is great concern that dropping one of the two Latin exams will diminish the quality of AP Latin preparation available and may even destroy some smaller Latin programs.

The timing issue for the cancellation of Latin Literature, though, is uppermost in my mind. It has already created chaos in Latin programs as teachers scramble to figure out what to do with students this coming academic year (2008-09). For those who would have been giving Latin Literature in 2009-10, there is no planning time for a complete overhaul for their Latin level previous to the AP. That the College Board has either not taken this into consideration or has but doesn't care is angering (justifiably) more teachers than you could possibly imagine. I can't believe that the College Board would be interested in provoking such difficulties that have serious consequences for our secondary school students.

Now that I have heard from you that even if Latin Literature is cancelled you may not stay with a pure Vergil syllabus (probably a sound move), I am even more concerned for the teachers who at this very moment are under pressure to offer a Vergil AP starting in 2009-10, even if they have had no preparation for it. In addition, they have to scramble right now to invent a new Latin course for next year (2008-09) for their students who will now take Vergil AP instead of Latin Literature AP the following year. If you are considering a newly constituted single Latin AP exam, it is unfair to teachers to have them planning, as I write, to switch their whole Latin curriculum over to a Vergil AP as the capstone of their program, when they might have to switch shortly thereafter to yet another new Latin AP exam. The education of next year's juniors and the following year's seniors will be especially negatively affected by these sudden changes from the College Board with virtually no time for adjustment on the part of their teachers. What may seem to you like a year's lead time in fact is no lead time at all. The lack of the Latin Literature AP in May 2010 means different course offerings in 2008-09. Considering the fact that this notice came out in April, how can teachers and schools reasonably be expected to have such drastic curricular changes in place by September 2008?

What I would urge you most strongly is to put a moratorium on ANY changes to the Latin AP program through the administration of the Vergil and Latin Literature exams in spring of 2012. This would give ample time (1) for the College Board to share with the Latin community the reasons for the perceived need for change, (2) for discussion with Latinists (of the sort you have already suggested) of possible alternatives to the current system, if the College Board deems change necessary, and, most important, (3) for time to implement in a sound and educationally competent fashion the vertical changes that would be needed in Latin programs to incorporate any alterations in the Latin AP curricula (from what is done in Level 1 through the final year of Latin).

I hope you will consider seriously the points I have made here.


Ronnie Ancona
Professor of Classics
Hunter College and The Graduate Center, CUNY




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