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February 15, 2024

Asheville School Shifts Away from AP Curriculum for a More Dynamic Learning Experience

Throughout the fall of 2023, our Academic Committee dedicated considerable time and effort in evaluating the effectiveness of the College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum. After careful review that engaged all academic Department Chairs and included the Admissions and College Offices, a unanimous recommendation was made to move away from the AP curriculum here at Asheville School beginning in the 2024-2025 school year. We shared this information with students during a School Convocation earlier this week, and we are excited to share this news with our broader School community.

We believe that breaking free of the constraints of the AP curriculum leverages the passion and expertise of our faculty to develop Advanced courses that are more dynamic, relevant, and empowering. Rather than teaching from a syllabus created by the College Board, our talented faculty can go beyond the AP curriculum and offer a wide variety of advanced courses for Asheville School students. We join over seventy top-ranked independent schools nationwide who no longer offer AP courses, and we are confident this is a positive step for our students and School. Even though Asheville School will be moving away from teaching Advanced Placement Classes, students will still be able to sit for and take Advanced Placement Exams.  

We remain committed to creating the best learning experience for our students and to our promise of an exceptional education. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to our Director of Academic Affairs, McNair Johnson.

Moving Beyond Advanced Placement Frequently Asked Questions

Why this decision for Asheville School? 

There were many factors that led to this decision. A prominent one was that our faculty has a strong desire to go beyond teaching students to retain broad information at a fast pace. Our faculty is excited about creating more opportunities for deep understanding, independent problem-solving, collaboration, research, and demonstrations of authentic learning. We believe that breaking free of the constraints of the AP curriculum leverages the passion and expertise of our faculty to develop advanced courses that are more dynamic, relevant, and empowering. 

In addition, we learned that many selective colleges and universities are granting fewer college credits to AP courses each year.  

While the College Board has long promoted Advanced Placement (AP) as a premier academic experience, many leading independent schools have determined that they can do better.  Schools can develop courses that transcend test preparation and focus on more than speed, memorization, and masses of content.  Asheville School now proudly joins the growing movement among independent schools to assert their independence and offer a more engaging intellectual model. More than 70 leading independent schools nationwide have moved “Beyond AP.” 

Prominent examples include: 

Cary Academy (NC)  
Chapin School (NY) 
Choate Rosemary Hall (CT)  
Durham Academy (NC)   
Emma Willard School (NY) 
Episcopal High School (VA)  
Green Farms Academy (CT) 
Lakeside School (WA)  
Lawrenceville School (NJ)  
Marin Academy (CA)  
McDonogh School (MD)  
Phillips Academy Andover (MA)  
Phillips Exeter (NH)  
Sidwell Friends (DC)  
Spence School (NYC)  
St. George’s School (RI)   
William Penn Charter School (PA)  
Woodberry Forest School (VA) 

How will colleges and universities view this move? 

Our college counselors support the decision to move beyond APs. Our counselors confirm that colleges have a consistent request: make sure that Advanced coursework is clearly reflected on a student’s academic transcript. The most selective colleges and universities are looking for rigor as defined by the institution, not the College Board. Students are always considered within the context of their school. The strong consensus among college admissions officers is that individual students best distinguish themselves as competitive applicants through:  

  • strong performance in appropriately rigorous courses 
  • clear alignment with the college/university’s values  
  • an engaging and revealing college essay that shares the student’s voice and story 
  • insightful recommendation letters that further develop the student’s narrative 
  • active engagement in activities outside the classroom that reflect the student’s inclination and desire to contribute to community life in college 
  • clearly defined academic interests or a major aligned with the college/university – or evident enthusiasm to explore the range of possibilities in a broad liberal arts curriculum  
  • a sharp focus on one or two sustained, deeply developed interests vs. a multitude of activities  
  • a special talent (arts or athletics)  
  • an additional connection to the institution (legacy or donor)  
How will colleges be able to identify Asheville School’s most rigorous courses on a student transcript? 

 College admissions officers will receive a detailed explanation on the school profile that accompanies each transcript. Advanced coursework will have a specific designation. Asheville School’s most Advanced courses will be easily distinguished within a student’s academic record. Starting in the 2024–2025 school year, this change will be noted on both the school profile and the student’s academic transcript.  

Will Asheville School continue to offer AP exams? 

Yes, Asheville School will continue to offer AP exams. Asheville School will have a testing option available for students who would like to submit AP scores to U.S. colleges and universities who still provide credit for them, or for students who are required to submit AP scores as part of their application to international colleges and universities.  No Asheville School course will include any explicit exam preparation. Students will want to make signing up for an AP exam an informed and intentional decision that aligns with their individual goals.  

Who should I speak with if I have more questions about this decision? 

Please contact McNair Johnson, Director of Academic Affairs and Chair of the Academic Committee that unanimously endorsed this decision. McNair can be reached at [email protected].

Other members of the Academic Committee include:

Jonathan Schwab, Associate Head of School
Dr. Burke Rogers, Director of College Counseling
Helen Plaehn, Director of Experiential Learning
Michael Heyward, Director of Admissions
Matt Stark, Director of the Learning Center/Student Support
Laura Lawrence, Faculty Representative
Kathy Leiner, Fine Arts Department Chair
Chris O’Steen, Humanities Department Co-Chair
Carl Boland, Humanities Department Co-Chair
Jacob O’Brien, Math Department Chair
Christine Jones, Science Department Chair
Caroline Fleming, World Language Department Chair