It's no new news that Scarsdale, NY has long disdained tests
and suffered from an inflated ego on this topic as well. Its latest
ploy to distinguish itself from the pack? Drop the plebian Advanced
Placement curriculum in favor of a more patrician alternative, "Advanced
Topics." The actual switch happened about a year ago,
but Scarsdale is only just now getting into the swing of these new
classes. The district claims that they will give teachers and students
greater freedom to dig deep into subject matter (string theory! larger
art canvases!) without the pesky prescriptions of an AP course and
upcoming exam. "If the people called [AP] a gold curriculum in the past,
I refer to this version as the platinum curriculum," brags Scarsdale
High principal John Klemme. But what's shiny in Scarsdale looks awfully
dull to College Board Vice President Trevor Packer: "[t]o us, their
courses don't look any different from high-quality A.P. courses. Simply
changing the letters on the course from A.P. to A.T. looks very
cosmetic." To top it off, Scarsdale is still sending its "AT" syllabi to
the College Board for review under AP standards.
But while Scarsdale may think itself too good for the likes of AP,
let's not get carried away. The AP standard is a high one--and not to be
scoffed at by the likes of a snooty New York suburb to the detriment of
other districts looking for high quality content. Scarsdale, you can
call it Advanced Topics, we call it Advanced Obnoxious.

"Scarsdale Adjusts to Life Without Advanced Placement Courses," by Winnie Hu, New York Times, December 7, 2008

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