When budgets get tight, institutions are forced to cut the fat, the unnecessary and the least lucrative. So it’s no surprise the College Board recently decided to eliminate four of its least popular Advanced Placement courses after the 2008-2009 academic year. Last week the College Board announced it would no longer offer Italian, Latin literature, French literature and computer science AP courses.
In only its third year of existence, AP Italian courses served 1,642 students. The Latin literature class serves 3,771 students and French literature serves 2,068 students. These numbers are nowhere near enrollment numbers for the most popular courses of English literature and U.S. history, which attract hundreds of thousands of students each year.
Despite the low numbers, AP courses offer students the opportunity to participate in courses they might never have the opportunity to take. Atypical curricula can help students think more analytically and help them find areas of interest that they enjoy. And for too long, the U.S. education system hasn’t encouraged students to learn multiple languages to the point of proficiency or fluency. Cutting three non-English language courses shows the value we’ve placed on the ability to speak or understand a second or third language.
In Minnesota, post-secondary enrollment options give students another venue for pursuing more challenging, specific courses. But because school districts have to fund the tuition fees for students who take college courses, the schools end up funneling funds away from their own programs. And in a time of economic crunch, PSEO risks losing support, too.
Without challenging classes students lose interest, either because school is too easy or because they don’t enjoy the very basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. If the College Board continues to think about its bottom line, high schools must consider continuing to offer challenging, unique courses to its students.