All Aboard the AP Fail Boat

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The Advanced Placement (AP) course I teach has recently undergone a significant redesign of its curriculum and test. As a result, the College Board has declared that this year, teachers need not submit their own syllabi for approval via the annual course audit process. Instead, we will be allowed to select from any of the four pre-approved model syllabi, designed by the College Board. I submitted a model syllabus in July and received approval within twenty-four hours. It was the most pleasant interaction I’ve had with the College Board in fifteen years of teaching AP classes.

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And then on September 9, a teacher posted a plea for help on our AP teacher discussion forum.

But you can already guess what happened, right?  Of course you can.

“Please help!”  Came the inevitable, predictable, all-but-foreordained message. “I submitted one of the model syllabi and it was rejected.”

Yes, that’s correct: the College Board REJECTED ITS OWN SYLLABUS.

Evidently, the CB identified five “deficiencies” that needed to be corrected on the syllabus that it uses as an exemplar.  And this does not appear to be an isolated incident. Several other teachers reported similar experiences, both in our course and other AP history courses.

There can be no better example of the hollow sham that is the AP audit process. For one thing, a course syllabus reveals exactly nothing about the quality of a course, its teacher, or the assignments.

The AP program is simply trying to keep itself relevant and marketable to colleges, which are increasingly declining to award course credit for AP classes. The College Board and the Educational Testing Service are scrambling to prove they can regulate and standardize the “rigor” of a course taught to more than 100,000 students throughout the country in schools from public to private, in classes as small as eight students and as large as forty, taught by everyone from experienced European historians to early-career civics teachers called off the bench at the last minute to fill staffing vacancies.

I’d say “good luck” but I don’t really wish it.

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