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A recent email from the College Board:

Dear Colleague:

The College Board views the support of world language and culture programs as one of our highest priorities. As a not-for-profit organization, we are committed to keeping student exam fees reasonable, so we will continue to bear a considerable financial loss annually to provide schools with AP world language offerings.

During the next several years, we will significantly increase our investment in support of world language and culture programs in the following ways:

Providing AP teachers with downloadable embedded assessments for measuring students' knowledge, skills and abilities throughout the AP course, giving teachers much more information about students' strengths and weaknesses before exam day.
Providing AP teachers with downloadable curriculum modules so that they have college-level materials for delivering key concepts.
Providing AP teachers with access to student AP Exam score reports online.
Convening college professors to raise awareness of the quality of AP world language and culture teachers and students and to enhance existing credit/placement policies.

However, as we significantly scale up our support for AP world language and culture teachers, we cannot continue to offer two separate AP Latin courses and exams. Therefore, the course and exam currently entitled AP Latin Literature will be discontinued following the May 2009 exam administration. The AP Latin: Vergil program will be enhanced in the coming years, with any changes communicated to AP Latin teachers far in advance.

Our intensified commitment to AP Latin will ensure that AP Latin: Vergil provides the rigorous, college-level academic experience needed by advanced high school Latin students. It will also ensure that the course is supported by an increased array of curricular resources and professional development opportunities that will benefit AP Latin teachers.

While we are disappointed to be announcing that next year is the final year of the AP Latin Literature program, we are eager to focus our resources on efforts that will provide a much greater degree of support for AP Latin teachers than ever before.


The AP Program

Note: The College Board also decided that AP French Literature and AP Computer Science AB will be discontinued after the May 2009 exam administration. AP Italian may also be discontinued, but because it is a new AP offering and has no companion exam within AP such as French, Latin, and Computer Science each has, external funding finalized by May 2009 could result in a decision to sustain AP Italian.

I don't want to react with anger, frustration or resentment, but I have to wonder what the hell they are thinking up there in Princeton. Admittedly, Virgil is one of the keystones in the Latin "canon": to read Roman literature, one has to read Virgil. But to then abandon the Latin Literature corpus is to also abandon the other canonized literature: Catullus, Horace, Ovid and Cicero. These authors helped shape what we know is classical Latin. In dropping this test, in dropping these authors, we limit the experience our AP students will have of a broad range of Roman authors. I don't see the College Board deciding that Shakespeare will no longer be a part of the AP syllabus, but more energy and support will be given to Mark Twain. How can they possibly contemplate sacrificing an entire branch of Latin literature?

A better solution, if one needed to be found, would be to roll Virgil in with the other authors -- thus increasing the total pool of possible authors for the Latin Literature exam. In this, students would not be confined to the Aeneid, but could also read the Georgics and the Eclogues.

As "disappointed" as the College Board says it is, I think AP Latin teachers are more disappointed. Disappointed at the short sighted motivations behind a poorly taken decision, disappointed at the hoops that the College Board insisted AP teachers go through to certify a program that will not exist in two years, disappointed in the lack of consultation made among AP Latin teachers. Poor initiative, poor execution can only result in a backlash. One of my favorite responses:

....let's all boycott AP altogether, teach whatever wondeful Latin literature we want to to our advanced students, and help them prepare for the SAT II which probably promises to get them college credits more reliably anyway.

It's tempting, at this point.

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