Lack of Funds Spells End To AP Italian Program

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 8, 2009

The College Board is planning to cut its Advanced Placement Italian program in the 2009-10 academic year, despite a yearlong effort by Italian American organizations to save the underfunded course.

The educational nonprofit group decided in March to eliminate three of 37 AP courses, saying they were poorly enrolled and losing money. It said a fourth course, Italian, would be pulled unless external donors stepped in. The announcement surprised teachers and scholars in those disciplines, especially given the robust expansion of college-level AP testing nationwide during this decade.

College Board officials confirmed yesterday that the effort to save AP Italian had failed. The Italian Language Foundation raised more than $650,000 in commitments but could not secure additional funds from the Italian government, according to a foundation release to be issued today. The foundation said the College Board had requested $1.5 million to keep the program afloat.

"We are deeply disappointed that the AP Program in Italian is being suspended," Margaret Cuomo, president of the New York-based foundation, said in the release. She thanked the College Board for its "good faith efforts," and the College Board praised the foundation for "a heroic effort" to save the course and test.

About 2,000 students took the AP Italian test in May, ranking it among the least popular AP offerings. Proponents struggled to build a pipeline of students to take the exam, which was first given in 2006. It will be canceled along with courses and tests in French literature, Latin literature and computer science. The last tests in all four subjects are scheduled for May.

Prominent Italian Americans mobilized to save the AP Italian course, and the Italian ambassador to the United States, Giovanni Castellaneta, weighed in with the College Board. High school teachers, college professors and cultural advocates fear that the death of the course could hobble study of the language, because students often select a foreign tongue with an eye toward future AP prospects. A good score on an AP test can yield college credit.

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