More than just advanced placement. Advanced learning.


In 2012, The Wellington School took the final steps toward transitioning its Upper School programming to Advanced courses, and no longer uses the designation of “Advanced Placement” (AP) in course titles. Academic departments have identified particular courses as “Advanced” and course titles reflect this designation in the school’s course program guide and on students’ transcripts. In making this change, Wellington has joined a growing cohort of independent schools that have ended the use of the AP designation.

We realize this can be seen as a bold change. Here are answers to common questions we’ve been asked.


Q.  Why has Wellington Changed from AP to Advanced Courses?

Our move to Advanced courses more effectively supports Wellington’s philosophy to develop and extend students’ knowledge through active and engaged instruction. Through our Advanced curriculum, we’re able to provide our students with interesting and in-depth modern coursework to challenge them to work at the highest levels all the time.


Q.  How are Wellington’s Advanced courses stronger than traditional AP courses?

Traditional AP courses cover only the topics and concepts that are addressed in the AP exams. They prepare students to memorize answers to multiple-choice questions and to practice writing standard answers to generic questions. Essentially, AP courses are rooted in the philosophy that teachers must “teach to the test.” This means teachers are obligated to instruct solely on the topics covered by the AP exam to net the best AP test score possible.

At Wellington, we are challenged to provide students with a strong academic foundation and then empower them to achieve a level of critical thinking that is open-ended. Rather than build a course curriculum around memorizing answers to the AP exam, we have created courses of study that teach students to think more critically about each subject and topic, which will more effectively prepare them for college and beyond. Because Wellington’s Advanced programming is geared toward critical thinking and is on par with the classes offered in college departments throughout the nation, Wellington students have a great advantage during the college admissions process.


Q. Will Wellington students still be able to take AP exams if interested?

Yes. Students who want to sit for the AP exam at the end of an appropriate course will continue to receive guidance and support from Wellington faculty. In fact, teachers who instruct Advanced courses will provide study sessions in the spring for students who plan on taking the AP exams, to help them learn how to test more effectively. Depending on the AP exam and the Upper School courses taken, there may even be relatively little for students to learn on their own. At the beginning of each year, teachers make it clear to each class how much overlap there may be between an AP exam curriculum and that course’s curriculum.


Q. Why were AP exams created?

AP exams were created in 1957 when The College Board wanted to identify the most elite students attending private preparatory high schools and distinguish those students more easily during the college admissions process. The board based the initial AP exams on what colleges taught in freshman survey courses. Over time, the board began providing a brief description of college-course themes and specifying which topics in those courses would be covered on the AP exams. Thus, schools began the concept of “teaching to the test.”

In recent years, the mission of the AP program has changed as The College Board has made a commitment to help the nation’s disadvantaged schools upgrade the quality of curriculum and instruction, and provide these schools with academic testing standards upon which to base their programming.


Q. What other schools have moved beyond the AP designation?

Many schools across the nation are moving towards creating Advanced curriculum. Here is a small list of some of the schools which have already made this transition: Calhoun School (NY), Concord Academy (MA), Dalton School (NY), Doane Stuart School (NY), Fieldston School (NY), Friends Central School (PA), Friends Select School (PA), Germantown Friends School (PA), Haverford School (PA), The Hill School (PA), Lawrenceville School (PA), Oldfields School (MD), Philips Exeter Academy (NH), Providence Academy (MN), St. Andrew’s Sewanee School (TN), St. Paul’s School (NH), University of Illinois Laboratory School (IL), and University Preparatory Academy (WA).


Q. How will the absence of AP designations impact my child’s college choices?

The move to Advanced courses benefits Wellington students in the college search process. Colleges compare the transcript to the offerings at each student’s school. It’s clear that many of our courses are among the most Advanced options students can choose.

Also, our Advanced and innovative curriculum differentiates our transcripts from thousands of others, a key consideration in the world of increasingly selective college admissions. Our College Counseling Department promotes the curricular advances to Admissions offices. Information about Wellington’s challenging program is included as part of the college application process.