Beyond APs

As a leading independent school in the United States, Chapin occupies a position of privilege that provides us both the responsibility and opportunity to continually assess our program. This assures that it meets the highest standards of rigor while it aligns with best practices in education, most recent brain research, and the needs of today's young women.

After several years of research, including an extensive study in partnership with fellows from the Teachers College Kligenstein Program in Private School Leadership; in-house course development; and conversation with experts from the college admissions community, we have determined that Chapin-designed advanced courses provide our students challenging, college-level work that deepens their intellectual engagement while building critical skills demanded by each discipline in more enduring ways than AP courses do. 

Building on the success of our current menu of advanced courses, Chapin will launch a full slate of advanced, weighted offerings that take the place of AP courses in 2019-2020.

Our Courses

Examples of these Chapin-designed courses include advanced electives such as:

  • Shakespeare's World
  • Gender and Sexuality in Literature
  • Sacred Texts
  • Molecular Genetics
  • Principles of Engineering
  • Senior History Seminar: Contemporary Issues
  • Advanced Topics in French Literature
  • Advanced Topics in Chinese: Language, Culture and History

Above all, these courses reflect Chapin's purpose: ensuring that all our students are engaged fully in their educational journey and prepared to thrive and lead in a world we can only begin to imagine. These courses provide our students rigorous, college-level work that engages them intellectually because each has the freedom to be responsive to their interests and to the world around us. Further, we can design the most effective methods for deepening the critical skills demanded by each discipline. We are proud and thrilled that university admissions offices have consistently recognized the strength of our most advanced programming.

Opportunities to Lead

Advanced courses that offer a more tailored, rigorous curriculum designed by our own teachers have been and will continue to be compelling opportunities to develop innovative, purpose-driven curricula that reflect the aims of a forward-focused program that:

  • embraces 21st century learning skills
  • helps students pursue interests more fully
  • demonstrates those interests more effectively to colleagues
  • fosters deeper, more meaningful, more enduring learning

Shared Principles

Chapin's most advanced courses are imbued with shared principles that reflect Chapin's vibrant, rigorous, skills-based, forward-thinking learning environment, distinguished by:

  • Inquiry-based, student-centered instruction
  • Rich, rigorous learning experiences that challenge students
  • Authentic assessments and demonstrations of learning
  • Promoting enduring understanding and knowledge transfer


Why is Chapin moving away from AP courses and examinations now?

We are always examining our program. As a leading independent school, Chapin occupies a position of privilege that provides us both the responsibility and opportunity to assure our program is rigorous, aligns with best practices and most recent brain research, and serves the evolving needs of today’s young women.

In 2010 Chapin launched a strategic initiative for teaching and learning, Focus Forward, the aim of which was to examine classroom experience by asking what we deemed the essential question, “How can Chapin, informed by groundbreaking research in teaching and learning, and driven by the demands of our dynamic world, create a vibrant learning environment that equips graduates to thrive and lead as enlightened, engaged global citizens?”

Focus Forward inspired our faculty to develop innovative curricula and programs at every level, K– 12, and in every discipline, with the goal of ensuring that our students are engaged fully in their educational journey. New advanced-level Upper School courses emerged from this work, such as Molecular Genetics, Principles of Engineering, Senior History Seminar: Contemporary Issues, and Advanced Topics in Chinese: Language, Culture, and History.

Our courses, exciting for students and well received by college admissions offices, raised an important internal question: do AP courses align with the goals of Focus Forward? To answer this question through research, we engaged fellows from the Klingenstein Program in Private School Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University to work with us in 2015–16. The findings of the subsequent report—An Examination of the AP Program at Chapin: Aligning Curriculum and Mission—which included a literature review, focus groups, community surveys, and outreach to colleges and peer schools, concluded that Chapin was well-positioned to move away from the constraints of AP courses.

Following meetings of Department Heads that discussed the findings of the Klingenstein report, Chapin formed a study group in 2016–17 to discuss how Chapin faculty could best take the lead in developing advanced courses that met our definitions of rigor and student engagement.

After more than three years of exploration and consultation, Chapin’s faculty and academic leaders determined that the best way to reach our forward-focused academic goals was to move beyond the confines of the Advanced Placement curriculum.

We have been thrilled with the results of our advanced course offerings and are even more excited at the promise of those new advanced courses that will join the roster in 2019–20.

What kinds of courses will be available instead of Chapin’s current AP offerings?

Chapin has already developed, over the last decade, a number of advanced, weighted courses: Advanced English electives (such as Shakespeare’s World, Sacred Texts, Medieval Literature, Gender and Sexuality in Literature, Literature of World War I); Advanced Biology: Molecular Genetics; Senior History Seminar: Contemporary Issues; Advanced Topics in French Literature; Advanced Topics in Latin Literature; Advanced Topics in Chinese: Language, Culture, and History; Advanced Physics; and Principles of Engineering.

Each existing AP course will be replaced in 2019–20 by an advanced, weighted course. For example, AP Art History will be replaced by Senior Seminar in Art History; AP Chemistry will be replaced by Advanced Chemistry. The Progression of Courses 2019–2020 document illustrates our planned program. Chapin will continue to examine and develop programming that aligns with our purpose, offers opportunities for interdisciplinary learning, and is responsive to student interest and the demands of the world into which our students will graduate.

I’ve heard that, in some schools, students still take AP exams, even though AP courses aren’t offered. Will Chapin continue to administer AP exams?

Schools that still administer AP exams have seen fewer and fewer students take them, and many are considering not offering them in future. We believe we would be sending mixed messages if we eliminated the courses but not the exams. Some of our students would hire tutors to prepare for exams that colleges have assured us are unnecessary, diverting their valuable attention and efforts away from the challenging work of the advanced courses they will be taking instead of APs. Further, if students are spending time taking exams in May, it will defeat the purpose of reclaiming six weeks currently lost to AP exams.

What are some other schools that have eliminated AP courses?

Examples of peer schools include:

New York City: Brearley; Berkeley Carroll; Dalton; Fieldston; Nightingale-Bamford; Packer Collegiate; Riverdale; Spence; St. Ann’s

Boarding Schools: Andover; Cate School; Choate; Exeter; Lawrenceville; St. George’s; St. Paul’s East Coast: Agnes Irwin; Beaver Country Day; Concord Academy; Lincoln School, Providence; Park School, Baltimore

West Coast: Crossroads; Lick Wilmerding; Marin Academy

Don’t certain universities in the United Kingdom require AP scores?

Most international institutions accept SAT Subject tests in place of AP scores. For example, University of Oxford accepts a score above 700 on three SAT Subject tests.

How will the elimination of APs affect my child's college admissions?

We have been assured by college admissions offices that moving beyond AP courses will not affect your daughter's college admissions process. Colleges look to the high school to communicate the level of curricular rigor the school offers. Because of our college guidance team’s long-term relationships with universities, we know colleges view Chapin’s current slate of advanced courses as academically challenging, and often more rigorous than AP course offerings.

Eliminating APs allows Chapin to design courses that respond to the strengths and interests of Chapin students. We are confident that Chapin’s new advanced courses will be regarded as equally strong.

How will Chapin inform colleges about the changes in our program?

The colleges that our students apply to are well aware of the hybrid model we've had for years, and this change in curriculum will come as no surprise to them, as they were consulted when Chapin considered moving beyond APs. The college guidance office will officially notify the colleges in a detailed letter and will also outline our program on the school profile, a document that every college to which our students apply receives.

What happens to students who wish to use AP scores to place out of college courses or graduate early?

In our experience, it isn’t the goal of Chapin students to curtail their college experience by graduating early. As well, fewer colleges are awarding credit for AP courses or are tightening their policies around which scores will earn credit. In other words, colleges are increasingly turning away from APs as a placement or credit-earning credential. Instead, most colleges offer placement tests of their own so that students join courses at the most appropriate levels. These placement tests are typically offered at freshperson orientation.