GUEST CONTRIBUTOR POST by Professor Bruno Petrarca Boyle

Bruna Petrarca Boyle is a College Board consultant, moderator for the College Board Electronic Discussion Group, and has served on the Task Force Committee for the AP® Italian Language and Culture Course. She was Chairperson of the Foreign Language Department at Narraganseet High School, President of the Rhode Island Teachers of Italian and Director of the AATI National Italian High School Contest Examination.

For many years I wondered why our beautiful Italian language and culture was not among other languages that offered students the opportunity to enroll in the AP course.  I inquired several times at annual conferences to no avail.  When the College Board decided to offer the AP Course/Exam in Italian in 1995 ~ (Inset#1), needless to say, I was thrilled.  I immediately had a meeting with the principal and an AP course was established at Narragansett High School, a small public school in southern Rhode Island.

“The establishment of the Advance Placement Program in Italian Language and Culture occurred threought the dedicate advoacy efforts spear-headed by my mother, Mrs. Maltida Cuomo, and myself, the leaders of several national Italian-American organizations, the Republic of Italy, and of course, teachers of Italian throughout the country. It was truly a historic achievement, and that is why the AP Italian program is so precious to us.

~ Margaret I. Cuomo, M.D. President of the Italian Language Foundation

My 12 students were just as excited as I was.  They were the pioneers in this outstanding journey.  Together we analyzed and dissected the format of the exam.  I vividly recall their reaction to it.  “Signora, what is so difficult about it?  Isn’t this what we have done in all levels?  We know how to read, write, speak, and understand the language pretty well.”  Of course, I concurred and explained the binder that I prepared for them to improve the knowledge that they already possessed.

What was in the binder? Reading passages, writing opportunities, speaking exercises, and listening components.  My goal was to organize myself and the students well so that we could focus on enriching our vocabulary and understanding the language and culture better. 

The schedule was set.  Students focused on 2 skills each day.   We worked together.  If there were grammatical questions, I would simply explain it to them.  They were very diligent.  They wanted to do well on the exam for themselves and also to impress me. 

The first AP Italian Exam was in May 1996 ~ (Inset#2). The 12 students had prepared themselves for this rigorous task.  Were they nervous?  Absolutely!  The morning of the exam, I wished them luck (In bocca al lupo!) and told them to do their best.

“The AP Italian Program was discontinued just a few years after it was introduced. This is when Louis Tallarini and I founded the Italian Language Foundation (ILF) in 2008 to reinstate AP Italian, and support teachers and students of AP Italian. The ILF collaborated with The College Board, The Republic of Italy, the Columbus Citizens Foundation, and other Italian American organizations, to raise the funding require to restart AP Italian.

~ Margaret I. Cuomo, M.D. President of the Italian Language Foundation

 What were the results?  All our students passed, receiving a 4, a few 3’s, many 2’s and one 1. [1]  I was pleased and proud of them.  I also realized that if I had taught my pioneers the same way, in the lower levels, they would have achieved better scores.

If AP Italian is not yet offered in your school, do as I did. Visit your principal and include it in the program of studies. 

AP Italian is of great benefit to teachers and students of Italian. It enhances a teacher’s professional experience and allows the student to master a college-level Italian course, and even obtain college credit for the course. Advanced Placement courses wield tremendous power in American education.

[1] See AP Score Table: