A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with a friend about my job and recent developments in library land, and the topic of testing arose. As always, I’ve been very happy to not be working in a public school with all that mandated testing, but we still do see students studying (and taking classes) for AP exams. Only one school I’ve worked at had a full compliment of AP courses, while the others have had more or less depending on their focus. Hackley, for example, had gotten rid of the humanities AP classes but still had science and math courses (although that was under discussion); PCS only offered an AP for Calculus, but didn’t classify the course as AP. My current school has many “honors” and “advanced” classes but nothing called AP (which is a designation that only those who submit a curriculum for approval can use).
I’m of two minds about the AP. As my British and French friends have repeatedly said, having some sort of national test allows universities to determine the academic readiness of the student. That’s a fair point: knowing that someone in rural Kansas has the same knowledge as someone at an elite East Coast prep school does help in the admissions process. But… it bothers me no end that while we’re all too ready to decry Common Core or No Child Left Behind, we’re also all too ready to give millions of dollars to a company (College Board; not-for-profit, but still!) to not only test our students but to approve our curriculum!
Following on that conversation, a colleague told me that he had to submit his curriculum to the College Board but hadn’t quite followed their rules and guidelines. He’d learned that they’d sent it back unapproved and so, over a long weekend, he’d spent about 30 hours dotting ever i and crossing every t they required… submitted it late Sunday and got approval early Monday. So clearly “they” didn’t even really look at what he’d done, just made sure that the ‘tasks’ had been completed. Says quite a lot about the company that also administers all the SATs, doesn’t it?
Over the next week or so students are going to start thinking about their courses for next year. Some will have to take required classes to meet graduation requirements, most will have some leeway with electives. The advanced and honors classes will be filled with those who are thinking about taking the AP in April, looking to prove their academic worth to college admissions counselors.
I wish that weren’t the case. I wish that one company didn’t hold so much power over our students academic careers. I also wish there were some way we could come to a consensus that would take their power away while still allowing for some sort of level playing ground in terms of education, so all students have an equal chance to prove they know US History or Biology, or whatever.