Few plaudits for audits
The last several years have witnessed an explosion in the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses--a laudable trend, on the whole. The College Board, though, is worried that its AP label might be losing integrity because of the program's rapid expansion, so the organization is auditing AP courses to ensure that their syllabi and lessons are up to snuff. That well-intended review process may, however, be penalizing some of the better AP classes (and teachers) out there. David Keener teaches biology and was recently told that his curriculum didn't meet AP standards. Yet, none of his students scored below a ‘3'--the passing grade--on the 2007 AP biology exam. (In another instance, several teachers reportedly turned in the same syllabus to be graded; some of them were deemed acceptable, others weren't. The College Board said such scenarios are extremely rare.) The College Board is right to defend the rigor of its brand. But if most of a class's students make the grade on AP's challenging tests, it indicates that the teachers are doing a fine job. (That's precisely how Jaime Escalante became known as the best teacher in America.) Why not focus the College Board's magnifying glass on classrooms where most students aren't even taking--much less passing--the tests? Why not let the kids' results determine the worth of the teacher's syllabus (and pedagogy)? To do otherwise is akin to making grandma take off her shoes at the airport x-ray machine: It's just for show, and only leads to frustration.
"Auditors Rejecting AP Course Syllabuses", by Jay Mathews, Washington Post, September 2, 2007