Changes are coming to the Advanced Placement program at Colorado Academy.
In the Colorado Academy Upper School, we strive to offer a diverse range of courses that are oriented around our Six Cs philosophy and that draw from each faculty member's deep expertise and unique academic training.

The question of how to maintain and grow a strong academic program is one that drives all great schools, and CA is no exception. For years, we have answered this question by focusing on robust professional development, empowering our teachers to develop innovative courses, and promoting a limited AP curriculum: we offer 16 out of 38 possible AP classes; students generally do not begin AP coursework until the Eleventh Grade; and even our AP classes are taught according to the individual expertise of the instructor. 

Still, there is an opportunity for CA to have a more distinct and challenging program that sparks student curiosity, provides space for exploration, and allows all learners to take more ownership over their education. These types of experiences better prepare students for college-level expectations and create new pathways for our students to engage in the world of ideas.

As we shared at a Tenth Grade Parent Association meeting in January, there are changes coming to our academic program that will create new opportunities for students and faculty, specifically in English and Social Studies. These two departments are eager to replace their AP classes with advanced options that will allow students to have more agency, go deeper, engage in knowledge production, and pursue multidisciplinary questions. The AP courses that will no longer be offered after 2022-2023 are English Literature, Economics, and European History. (Beginning this fall, AP Human Geography will no longer be offered.)

This kind of program development is intended to align with CA’s mission and to center student learning. CA students are curious, and classes that are geared towards preparing students for cumulative AP exams rarely leave breathing room for going deeper and exploring questions. Though CA has not decided to eliminate AP in all departments, we remain committed to the fundamental question of how we might maintain and grow a strong academic program, and we are becoming increasingly open to the possibility that the answer might lie beyond the AP program.

We are not alone in considering this shift. More and more, independent schools such as CA are revisiting the question of whether to offer College Board’s Advanced Placement program, a range of classes that emphasize breadth over depth. We know that more than 75 leading independent schools across the country have made the choice to develop their own advanced courses in the last 15 years, replacing AP partially or fully. Currently, there is a surge in this movement to go “Beyond AP.”

For the last two years, we have been examining our curriculum from the perspective of college admissions. When we talk to deans of admissions at schools across the nation, we have been assured that this shift will not negatively impact our students. In fact, our plan is to develop new offerings that will help our students differentiate themselves in ways that the AP structure currently limits. CA is well known and respected for our strong academic program. College admissions offices have extensive experience evaluating students with and without AP classes. (Please see the FAQ below for more information.) Indeed, we believe firmly that moving away from AP will actually make our program more distinctive to colleges and our students’ modes of engagement more noteworthy.

Colorado Academy continues to be one of the most reputable independent schools in the country. We look to the future with a sense of optimism about the possibilities for our students and our program.

Families with additional questions should reach out to:
Mike Davis PhD, Head of School
Max Delgado, Upper School Principal
Sonia Arora ’01, Director of College Counseling

Frequently Asked Questions

List of 8 frequently asked questions.

  • Will this change impact the way that colleges view CA?

    Rest assured that CA is on the map. As one of the top independent schools in the country, we are widely respected and known by colleges and universities. Institutions of higher education know the rigor and high quality of CA’s AP and non-AP program, as well as the high caliber of CA faculty. Each fall, over 150 colleges visit CA to recruit Seniors, and each year graduates regularly matriculate to over 65 different institutions across the country and even abroad.
  • Will this impact my student’s college admissions?

    In the admissions process, student applicants shine when they demonstrate a sense of passion and purpose. The most highly selective institutions look for intellectually rigorous, college-level coursework that students pursue not simply to check a box but because they enjoy learning for the sake of learning. After numerous conversations about Advanced Placement with admissions deans and directors, we are confident that differentiating our curriculum beyond AP will help CA students stand out among talented candidates.
  • What have we learned from other peer schools that have moved away from AP?

    When we spoke to peer independent schools that have transitioned away from APs, none reported a negative impact on college admissions. Instead, schools stressed that students were able to pursue their authentic interests, discover their passions, and develop their voices. With greater agency, students grew academically and, as a bonus, had much more to share in their college applications.
  • Without AP classes, how will colleges know that my student has challenged themselves in the humanities and social sciences?

    Colleges have extensive experience evaluating curriculum with and without AP classes. Admissions offices assess students based on the choices they’ve made within the context of what is offered to them at their school and in their community. Though future opportunities for advanced work in the Upper School English and Social Studies Departments will not be labeled “AP,” like AP classes, they will be otherwise designated as advanced and weighted in student GPAs. (Currently we do offer a few “AP-level” or “Post-AP” classes in math and science that are weighted and labeled for colleges in order to signal academic rigor.)
  • Will Advanced Placement exams still be offered? Will students lose the opportunity to receive college credit by not taking Advanced Placement courses?

    Advanced Placement exams are administered worldwide in May of each year. Because CA faculty are currently developing courses for the 2023-2024 school year, it’s too early to say if new offerings will align closely enough to prepare students to take existing AP exams in the humanities and social sciences.

    We acknowledge that colleges and universities around the country—including here in our backyard—do offer some credit to students who pass AP tests, typically with scores of 4s or 5s (out of 5). But fewer and fewer colleges and universities are awarding such course credit or placement based on AP scores. It is increasingly rare for selective private colleges to award credit. Those that have gone this route question whether “AP” is truly comparable to college coursework. Most colleges offer their own placement exams in subjects such as math, science, and foreign languages, so that incoming first-year students start off in the most appropriate courses. We have examined AP testing and college credit through the lens of socioeconomic equity.

    Many independent schools that move “beyond AP” continue to offer AP exams, and some do so even past the transition period. We will consider this possibility as long as our school calendar allows.
  • How will CA notify colleges and universities of this shift?

    CA’s College Office is well-equipped to present these changes to colleges to help admissions offices understand how student applicants have challenged themselves and how they have moved through our curriculum. Additionally, we want colleges to understand the myriad ways CA’s new college-level courses and opportunities prepare students for the future.

    Students will also have space to represent their own growth and engagement through their college application materials. CA’s College Office advises students closely as they articulate their achievements, interests, and ambitions in the application process.
  • When will we know more about what CA will offer in English and Social Studies?

    The CA English and Social Studies Departments have already begun broad-stroke conversations about the new classes they will offer to replace the AP, and they will spend the next year developing these new courses, so they are ready for the 2023-2024 school year. As part of this redesign, these departments will explore best practices in curricular design through professional organizations, workshops, and engaging with peer schools who have already successfully made this shift.
  • When will the math, language, and science departments know if they will drop AP or not?

    The question being put forth to all our departments is how to grow our academic program so that CA students have the tools to excel, demonstrate excellence, and be college-ready. Though CA has not decided to eliminate AP in all departments, we know that peer institutions are answering these questions through specialized programs, deep research, and interdisciplinary learning. While the English and Social Studies Departments are spending the 2022-2023 school year planning their new higher-level courses, the other departments will spend the next year taking inventory of the AP offerings to ensure that any class we offer—AP or not—fits these criteria. The 2022-2023 school year will bring more clarity on a timeline and any possible future multi-year transition. Rest assured that CA science, math, and language departments will always offer exposure to college-level content, skills, and practices and will align with higher education preparation expectations.

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