Yesterday, I ranted on about the College Board. This led to a Facebook hosted discussion which got me thinking a little more:
Advanced Placement exams basically exist because we don't trust our high school teachers.
I usually use phrases like "society doesn't trust" but let's personalize it this time – for parents, think about whether or not you trust your kids teachers? Do you a large private, unaccountable organization more?
If you teach an advanced placement course, in order for your class to be listed as AP you have to submit your syllabus to the college board for approval. This sounds like they're setting a standard but it's not. I can point to a bunch of teachers who have submitted identical syllabi where sometimes it's accepted but ofttimes it's rejected. This is the syllabus we submitted originally for Stuy. Yes, we have high achieving kids, but given the fact that the syllabus was approved originally and that Stuy students just about all score 4 or 5 on APCS-A should tell you something about the level of care or competence of the College Board.
Then you teach the class and in May, one to two months before the end of the semester the kids take the AP exam - you don't see results until the summer.
In theory, if the kids do well they can receive placement or credit. The problem is, fewer and fewer schools are giving credit, when they do, it might not help due to the way undergrads pay for courses and placement can generally be achieved by appealing to college departments or by taking college administered placements.
Back to the trust thing.
In college, you take a course, the final exam is created by the professor or a group of professors and it's graded by the people that teach the course - possibly as a committee. Kids final grades include these exams but a student can fail a final or even miss one and still pass the class whereas an AP exam is a one shot deal and even if you "pass" you might not get anything from it. I'm not even getting into questioning the quality and content of the exams.
Kids get their grades and college credit. There are no outside "standardized exams" and we trust that the professors and the colleges are educating our kids.
Now, in high school, teachers make their lessons, teach their classes, create, administer, and grade final exams and kids get grade - but not for college level classes.
I know multiple high school physics, chemistry, math, and computer science teachers who are far better at teaching than their college counterparts yet my friend the math teacher isn't trusted to assess his calculus students for the purpose of college credit - we don't trust him but we trust the faceless entity known as the College Board.
Think about that for a minute.
You trust your child's teacher with your child's well being every day but you don't trust him to say whether or not your kid knows calculus?
This is a real problem.
I have a friend who frequently doesn't quite finish the BC Calculus test topics because he actually teaches the material in depth – instead of "follow the scripts" the kids go through proofs and derivations. It costs the kids - I know a number of them who got a 4 on the BC exam rather than a 5 but come the end of June when the class is done, they know more calculus more deeply than a lot of kids who've taken the class in college.
The lines of college have been blurred with more and more "remedial" classes being taught at the college level and more and more "college level" being taught in the high schools.
It's a really sad state of affairs when we trust our professors - many of whom are hired more for research than for their teaching chops and we don't trust our teachers during our kids more formative years.