Advanced Placement Italian Exam to Be Suspended

Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times, January 8, 2009

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Despite a spirited fundraising campaign by Italian Americans in Southern California and across the country, the effort to save the AP exam in Italian has failed, at least for now.

The language exam for high school students trying to win college credit will be suspended after this spring’s testing because not enough money was pledged to subsidize it, College Board officials in New York said Wednesday.

The exam was launched four years ago and is expected to attract only 2,200 test-takers this year, less than a quarter of the number needed to make it viable, they added.

The news disappointed Southland teachers of Italian. They said many students will be discouraged from studying the language without the prestigious AP Italian class and the incentive to earn college credit by passing the exam.

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The nonprofit College Board, which offers 37 AP tests in various subjects, as well as the SAT, announced last spring that it would drop the Italian exam after 2009. Following protests by Italian Americans, the testing agency said it would reverse the decision if $1.5 million in outside money could be raised.

As a result, the Italian Language Foundation was formed and rounded up $650,000 in pledges from individuals, companies and philanthropies. But much of that was contingent on the Italian government funding most of the rest, according to foundation President Margaret Cuomo, a radiologist and the daughter of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.

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Packer said that the numbers of students taking the annual Italian exam had edged up somewhat over four years but remained small compared with those for Spanish, with 101,000, and even Chinese, with 5,000, and were unlikely to reach the 10,000 originally projected by Italian test advocates. He said the College Board loses about $2 million a year on the Italian test after students pay the $86-per-test fee, and he emphasized that the organization’s policy is not to spend more than $500,000 a year on an AP test.

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According to the College Board, 305 high schools in the U.S. offer the Italian AP class, including about 23 in California. In contrast, more than 6,400 schools, including 1,120 in California, offer AP Spanish.

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