St. Luke’s offers over 30 Advanced courses which are innovative and challenging college-level classes that go well beyond the curriculum found in the traditional AP classes.

Creating Better Academic Experiences

When a particular Advanced Placement (AP) offering is strong, we offer it. But when our exceptional faculty know they can create more engaging and compelling experiences, "Advanced Curriculum" courses are offered (over 30 are currently available to choose from, please see offerings below in the FAQ section). 

St. Luke's Advanced Curriculum gives brilliant teachers the room to be brilliant and inspires ambitious students to swing for the fences academically.

Liz Perry, Assistant Head of School for Academics

St. Luke's is writing original curriculum that literally no other school in the country is using."

The Unlimited Potential of Advanced Curriculum


Frequently Asked Questions

List of 13 frequently asked questions.

  • What Advanced courses does St. Luke’s offer?

    Computer Science & Engineering
    Advanced Computer Architecture
    Advanced Programming Languages
    Advanced Computer Science I
    Advanced Computer Science II
    Advanced Engineering & Design

    Advanced Feminist Literature
    Advanced Literature of War
    Advanced Shakespeare
    Advanced African American Literature
    Advanced America in Film
    Advanced American Studies

    Fine Arts
    Advanced Art Practices: Senior Thesis

    History & Social Science
    Advanced Government: Constitutional Law
    Advanced Political Theory
    Advanced Civil Rights Movement
    Advanced Government: Legal Studies
    Advanced European History
    Advanced American Studies

    Leadership Studies
    Advanced Classical Scholars Research
    Advanced Global Scholars Seminar
    Advanced Literary Scholars Seminar
    Advanced STEM Scholars Seminar

    Advanced Multivariable Calculus
    Advanced Statistics

    Advanced Biology
    Advanced Chemistry
    Advanced Modern Physics: A
    Advanced Modern Physics: C
    Advanced Organic Chemistry

    Theater Arts
    Advanced Acting: St. Luke's Theater Company

    World Language
    Advanced Latin Literature
  • Why did St. Luke’s create Advanced courses?

    We created Advanced courses because most APs were not providing our students with a truly college-level experience. We knew we could do better. That said, we acknowledge that the Advanced Placement program has great value in many schools, especially where a standardized curriculum provides an important guide for teachers and where colleges may not be as familiar with a school’s academic program.
    For a school like St. Luke’s, with an established reputation and a desire to set standards for student learning at a higher level than those of the College Board, Advanced Placement courses may actually limit the scope and rigor of the instruction. AP courses are built on an audited curriculum set by the College Board (the audit is to protect the Advanced Placement trademark), and the standard for student performance is a single morning’s or afternoon’s test score. At St. Luke’s, we offer courses that go “beyond the AP,” challenging and inspiring our students.

    Listen below to Head of Upper School Liz Perry describe, in a clip from a podcast interview with the student-run Eye of the Storm, the reason for moving beyond APs. Or listen to the entire interview.
  • What did St. Luke's gain by moving beyond the AP?

    This change gives our school the chance to be itself—to focus on fulfilling a mission directed not just at mastery of course material but at supporting our students as they develop into intellectual and moral beings. We believe in our mission and in the power of our faculty to create learning experiences for students that elicit a high degree of intellectual engagement and that involve active, authentic work toward gaining the deepest possible understanding of challenging concepts, difficult skills, and sophisticated content.

    On a more logistical level, courses without an AP focus regain four to six weeks of precious time to teach new content. For example, in the past, AP Biology students spent time before the St. Luke’s exam period in March preparing for a practice AP exam, then going over the completed practice exam, and then preparing for the real AP exam which was administered in early May. After that was over, teachers observed that students understandably lost momentum and focus during the remaining weeks of the year. St. Luke’s Advanced Biology classes take all the time previously spent prepping for a standardized test and use it instead to dive deeply into biological science topics.
  • How has the thinking around APs evolved at St. Luke's?

    When St. Luke’s first introduced AP classes in the 1980s, they represented a chance for us to demonstrate our academic chops. Over 40 years later, we no longer need an outside seal of approval on our academic program. St. Luke’s has a national reputation as an academic powerhouse, sending students to a range of selective colleges and universities and attracting many more qualified students each year than we can enroll. At the same time, our faculty are ready and eager to challenge students in ways the College Board’s narrow focus on standardized tests simply can’t accommodate in many subjects.

    Listen below to Head of Upper School Liz Perry describe, in a clip from a podcast interview with the student-run Eye of the Storm, where the idea for moving beyond APs came from, as well as some background on the multi-year evaluation process, including implementation timing. Or listen to the entire interview.

    In this clip, Head of Upper School Liz Perry describes the team which evaluated the move beyond APs.
  • Have other schools moved beyond APs?

    Many excellent independent schools have examined the Advanced Placement program and made the decision either not to offer APs in the first place or to move away from APs in most or all areas. Here is a sampling of such schools. 

    Archer School (CA)
    Baldwin School (PA)
    Berkeley Carroll School (NY)
    Boston University Academy (MA)
    Brearley School (NY)
    Chapin School (NY)
    Choate Rosemary Hall (CT)
    Concord Academy (MA)
    Dalton School (NY)
    Fieldston Ethical Culture School (NY)
    Groton School (MA)
    Haverford School (PA)
    Lakeside School (WA)
    Lawrenceville School (NJ)
    Loomis Chaffee (CT)
    Marin Academy (CA)
    Miss Porter’s School (CT)
    Packer-Collegiate School (NY)
    Phillips Andover Academy (MA)
    Phillips Exeter Academy (NH)
    Spence School (NY)
    St. Mark’s School (MA)
    St. Paul’s School (NH)
    The Cate School (CA)
    University of Chicago Laboratory School (IL)
    We spoke with and visited the academic leaders at many of these schools to learn about their journeys. Across the board, they reported flourishing admissions numbers, steady or improving college lists, and high student and teacher satisfaction. Change is never easy, but it is worth noting that none of these schools has reversed its decision and returned to APs. On the contrary, in our conversations we heard the refrain, “Why did we wait so long to make this change?”
  • Are students penalized in the college admission process because they don’t have “AP” courses on their records?

    Our conversations with college deans of admission and the college representatives who visit our campus each year affirm that the absence of AP courses on a student's record has not hurt them in any way--if anything, St. Luke’s Advanced courses have helped applicants stand out in a competitive pool. Colleges evaluate students on the strength of the programs they have taken relative to the rigor of programs offered at the school. In other words, a student’s transcript is evaluated in the context of the courses that were available to that student. St. Luke’s provides colleges with a School Profile that accompanies each application; our School Profile clearly describes the nature of our programs and communicates which are our most demanding courses in each discipline.
    Schools that have already removed the AP designation and created their own advanced courses have had their decisions received enthusiastically by colleges—even the most selective.
  • What do colleges think about St. Luke's Advanced courses?

    We shared our work on Advanced curriculum with deans of admission at selective colleges and universities and asked them directly if the absence of “AP” on a student's record would hurt St. Luke’s applicants in the college admissions process. Here is a sample of the many responses we received:  

    “St. Luke’s School benefits from having a strong academic reputation among highly selective colleges and universities. Transitioning away from Advanced Placement is neither detrimental to the school nor to its students provided comparable courses are made available. As always, the University of Richmond looks forward to receiving applications from bright and talented students from St. Luke’s.” 
    Gil J. Villanueva, Associate Vice President and Dean, Office of Admission 
    University of Richmond

    "At MIT we respect the right of all secondary schools to offer the curriculum they deem to be best for their students. The changes that St Luke’s is proposing will have no impact on the way we will evaluate their students--we will still be aware that St Luke’s offers a challenging curriculum that prepares their students for post-secondary study at the highest levels." 
    Stuart Schmill, Dean of Admissions and Student Financial Services 
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

    “Notre Dame does not have a preference for either the AP or IB courses--our primary consideration is for the high school to inform us what their top courses are and whether our applicant has taken most of them. High schools like St. Luke’s that drop the AP and have their own focus on what they consider to be an honors or advanced course will not have any reduction in chances for their top students to gain admission at Notre Dame.” 
    Don Bishop, Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Enrollment
    University of Notre Dame
    “At Middlebury, we look at applicants within the context of what their schools offer; we see many students whose high schools have chosen to veer away from AP classes, choosing instead to offer more specific course content geared at the passions of teachers and students and at the particular resources and opportunities available within that school’s culture.  As long as St. Luke’s clearly identifies what it considers to be its advanced classes, we will take those designations into account when evaluating the rigor of a student’s course selections as seen on a transcript. Not offering APs does NOT put students at a disadvantage in the admissions process. As a former teacher myself, I applaud any move that allows for and encourages greater levels of innovation and specialization from teachers and schools.”
    Samuel N. Prouty, Director of Admissions
    Middlebury College
  • How have Advanced courses affected courses offered in 9th and 10th grades?

    The introduction of Advanced courses is part of a larger focus on innovative teaching across the Upper School. Students in the first two years of high school at St. Luke’s already benefit from an environment where their teachers are encouraged to create the very best curriculum without being bound by the College Board.

    That said, 9th and 10th grade Honors level courses often served as a kind of “pre-AP,” with methods of assessment and areas of curricular focus that were designed to set students up for success on AP exams in the coming years. For example, students in Honors British Literature, a 10th-grade course, used to do a fair amount of timed writing on poems they had not studied yet; that was a practice based on the old 11th-grade AP Literature exam. Now that teachers no longer see 9th- and 10th-grade honors courses as “pre-AP,” they, too, have the freedom to design innovative curriculum that best inspires their students and prepares them for truly advanced work in the discipline.
  • What impact do Advanced courses have on the school calendar?

    Teachers in Advanced Courses reclaim 4-6 weeks of teaching time when they no longer need to prepare students for the AP exams in May. It also allows greater consistency for the whole Upper School calendar in the month of May since we administer fewer AP exams. Students taking an AP exam are still excused from their classes for the entire day, but the interruption to non-AP courses because of missing students taking AP exams has decreased significantly.
  • Can’t students use AP scores to earn college credit or place out of college requirements?

    Yes. Some St. Luke’s alumni have benefitted from this opportunity, and if students choose to take AP exams they can continue to use high scores in this way. As has been reported in the news media starting about a decade ago, however, an increasing number of highly selective colleges are declining to offer students college credit for AP scores

    Calculus, French, and Spanish are the areas where St. Luke’s alumni report most often using an AP score of 4 or 5 to place into a higher level college course or to fulfill a college requirement. This is part of the reason we have elected to keep these AP courses (AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, AP French Language, and AP Spanish Language) in our curriculum going forward. Also, these particular exams are ones worth teaching toward-- they meet our own high standard of excellent assessments focused more on true learning and application than on memorizing content.
  • Are St. Luke’s students still able to take AP Exams if they wish to?

    Yes. Our school continues to offer Upper School students the opportunity to sit for Advanced Placement tests in any subject area of interest to them.
  • If a student wants to take an AP course no longer offered at St. Luke’s, are there any options?

    Yes. While we believe strongly that Advanced Courses challenge and engage any motivated student ready for college-level work, we acknowledge that there may be particular reasons a student might want a traditional Advanced Placement course. For example, students interested in attending college abroad may need AP scores to be eligible for admission. Students in the Class of 2023 and 2024 who are academically eligible and are recommended for Advanced Courses may choose to take up to a total of two AP courses online through One Schoolhouse or the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. The AP courses must be ones we offered as of 2019.  Eligible students may count one online AP course toward their total required SLS courseload per year, and we will not pass along the fee for this online course to families.
  • What is the difference between Honors and Advanced at St. Luke’s?

    Honors is the designation we use for high school-level courses where an honors section covers a wider scope and moves at a faster pace than a standard section. Advanced is the designation we use for college-level courses that have a prerequisite (usually an honors course). For example, students may take Biology at either the standard or honors level, typically in 9th grade. Advanced Biology, however, is a college-level course, typically taken in 11th or 12th grade.

Hunter Martin, Advanced European History Teacher

One of the things I love most about teaching at St. Luke’s is that my colleagues and I are given the space to tailor-make a History education, not for ‘students’ in the abstract, but for individuals with unique identities, particular needs, and their own evolving array of interests that reflect their ongoing discovery of self and the world around them."

Clara Pakman ‘19

The three years I spent with the computer science program at SLS put me ahead of my classmates at Dartmouth in terms of skill level. It is rare to find a school that offers multiple post-AP classes, and it is thanks to these courses that I felt very well-prepared to take computer science at a college level.”
St. Luke’s School is a secular (non-religious), private school in New Canaan, CT for grades 5 through 12 serving over 35 towns in Connecticut and New York. Our exceptional academics and diverse co-educational community foster students’ intellectual and ethical development and prepare them for top colleges. St. Luke’s Center for Leadership builds the commitment to serve and the confidence to lead.