April 4, 2008

When your definition of rigor depends on the market

The news in this morning's Washington Post that the College Board is cutting several AP programs should make educators think at least a second time before tying their curriculum to an outside entity's financial fortunes. While it is non-profit, the College Board made decisions to cut French and Latin literature, Italian, and one of the computer science AP exams based on demand. Essentially, if the number of schools and students don't reach a certain threshold (enough to pay for exam development and whatever overhead the College Board calculates on that), the College Board has to subsidize the low-demand exams with high-demand exams. I am sure that the College Board will say that the finances do not absolutely determine whether they continue to offer courses, but it plays a role: who can credibly say that we should discourage students from learning French and Latin literature?

According to the Post's article, the three foreign-language courses have demand concentrated in the DC area. It'll be interesting to see if the schools involved create a consortium to continue the exams. And it'll be even more interesting to see how colleges and the public respond. AP and IB programs have instant credential value because of institutional longevity. But does rigor count if it's the same curriculum but without that credential?

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Posted in Education policy on April 4, 2008 9:00 AM |