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Early Ap Registration - it's, um, for the kids

I stumbled upon a thread over in the APCS-A Facebook group the other day. It seems that the College Board is making some changes in their registration timeline. In the past, students registered for the exam sometime in March with the exams administered in May. The new changes include requiring registration in November along with $40 late registration and cancellation fees.

The College Board is, of course, spinning this as for the student's benefit.

At least a portion of the teaching community thinks otherwise and has in fact started this petition.

To me this is just another money grab by the College Board - an organization that already has way too much influence over high school education.

Let's take a look at what the College Board actually brings to the table. They offer an exam. A single exam in each subject offered that's supposed to in 3 hours encapsulate an entire years's worth of learning and from that, colleges might give a student placement or credit.

But you say "they offer so much more." Do they?

Teacher's have to submit syllabi and the college board approves them. They offer samples but so do text book authors and third party organizations. In my case I rolled my own. The teacher also develops the course. Does the College Board provide materials? I guess, but so do those same groups that provide curricula. The college board certainly doesn't define the subject. Last I checked Calculus, was pretty well defined way before the AP program. So was Chemistry, and most other subjects. Actually, due to their outsized influence they do define the subset of the subject in some cases and we should really be questioning this influence. Finally, the teacher does the actual hard job of teaching the class.

I'm just not seeing the value added.

We're already seeing schools require that students take the exam to be in the class or provide "incentives" like a credit or grade bump for taking the exam or even removing the AP designation from the transcript if the student doesn't take the exam. Doing any of these is just plain wrong. By all means explain the advantages and disadvantages of taking the exam but to essentially force a student to fork over money and personal data to an outside independent agency is just plain wrong.

But you say that students in many districts don't have to pay.

This is even more insidious.

Now it's the taxpayer on the hook and the College Board has successfully created an everlasting cash pipeline from the public into private coffers while providing questionable value.

If you don't agree with me and think that these requirements or incentives are fine ask yourself this: If you had a child in a class and the teacher said "your child has to sit in a room with a friend of mine for three hours, give them $100 and personal data and I will give your child a higher grade" you'd be outraged.

Spending three hours taking an external exam has no bearing on what a student did or didn't do in the class so the grades, credits etc should be the same whether or not the kid took the AP exam.

Let's get back to the early registration changes. Currently kids register for the AP exam in March. By then students might know what college they're likely to go to. They'll know if the AP exam is of any use to them. In November they don't. I frequently lost some high scores on AP exams because I had top students who were accepted early to schools that didn't award credit. I also lost a couple of low scores of students that for whatever reasons had no chance at getting a 3 or higher so opted not to sit for the exam. I guess the College Board came up with a good way to get money for those kids without providing value in return.

Then there are block scheduled schools or other situations where kids don't start the class until after the new November deadline.

Finally, let's talk a bit about the College Board's claim that this is all for the students. The video talks about students doing better if they signed up earlier. I'm skeptical but even if it's true, is "doing better on the AP exam" the goal we have for our students. How about learning our subject area or being inspired to continue on with it.

In the video, teachers talk about how the kids are more motivated and focused because the exam. This is getting to sound a lot like the inane focus on high stakes test where the test is the goal. Is the motivation that "you paid the $100" so it's wasted if you don't do well or "the school paid $100" so we'll guilt you into studying more? Sorry, as teachers we can do better.

I'm sure I'll get some flak for writing this but I also suspect that there are many teachers who agree with me that the College Board is not looking out for students but rather themselves.

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