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: