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Open Letter from Ronnie Ancona re: AP Latin Literature Cancellation

The following letter was written by Ronnie Ancona in response to an urgent e-mail from Judy Hallett to the APA Board and some others (like Ronnie) involved in AP. Now posted on Latinteach and Classics list:

Dear colleagues,

Thanks to Judy for calling this matter to your attention. I was truly stunned by this announcement. There seem to be three issues involved, (1) the announced change itself (2) the lack of professional consultation and (3) the lack of lead time for teachers, schools, and others involved in AP to prepare, should such a change be implemented.

The Latin Literature exam (in one form or another) has a very long and valued history in the AP curriculum. If I'm not mistaken (I would have to check back through my notes), this would be the first time in the AP program's history that only Vergil would be given. In fact in the olden days it was considered "more advanced" than Vergil. It was 5th year and Vergil was 4th. (Judy and I co-wrote a book chapter recently on Catullus in the secondary school curriculum that required me to do research on this at the ETS archives.) As Judy has pointed out, the Latin Literature curriculum (especially the Ovid option paired with the required Catullus) has generated lots of interest and excitement about studying Latin in recent years. Many schools only offer the Latin Literature AP, while others count on that as a second Latin AP along with Vergil.

If for economic reasons having two exams and programs is difficult, perhaps there might be a role for the Classics profession to raise or contribute money to help maintain the two exams. Or if there is to be only one exam, shouldn't Latinists be consulted in the profession at both the secondary school and college levels along with the Test Development Committee to determine what the content of that course could or should be? When the Cicero content was recently changed there was extensive polling of Latinists. Why with a major change like this was none of this done?

Leaving aside the pedagogical issues, the timing of this announcement is terrible for teachers, administrators, publishers, and others involved in AP. The local public school in the district where I live, for example, currently teaches AP Latin Literature in the 5th year and non-AP Vergil in the 4th. With no time for advanced planning is a teacher supposed to suddenly change that non-AP into an AP class with students who may not be ready? Or switch Vergil to 5th year and over this summer invent a new curriculum for her 4th year course? This is just one small example of the impact this might have. There are also schools that have invested extensive resources into textbook purchases and teacher training based on the present AP curriculum. What of the teacher who is taking a course this summer, perhaps with public school funding, specifically designed for AP Latin Literature preparation? Is this preparation to be good for only one year? (At Hunter College we just added some courses to our Latin teacher-training MA program specifically to help train teachers for AP authors.) What of textbooks that have been written with the AP audience specifically in mind? While changes do happen, the speed of this announcement may mean that even books that are still forthcoming may suddenly have a different and smaller anticipated audience. These are just a few items that quickly come to mind.

This issue affects colleges as well as secondary schools because it will have impact on what is and is not read at the secondary school level as well as whether schools choose to still offer AP Latin. The AP program is the only large and widely recognized program for advanced level Latin study at the secondary school level. Some teachers and schools may just stop participating,which would negatively affect students. Others may continue with just the Vergil, losing students who may not be as interested in that curriculum. This, in turn, will affect enrollments in Latin at both the secondary and college levels.

I'd be very interested to hear the thoughts of others.

All best,

Ronnie Ancona

Views: 97

Comment by Bill Parsons on April 6, 2008 at 9:43am
Please include me on the list of people who support continued AP Latin Literature.
Comment by thomas norfleet on April 7, 2008 at 9:18pm
As a teacher of Classics and Latin for almost three decades, I also support the continuation of AP Latin Literature. The CB is doing a serious disservice not only to our schools but also to our nation.

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