Thursday, June 21, 2007

I've been AP-proved!

Shortly after my last post (blog-eons ago), I spent a day preparing the course syllabus for my AP Physics B course. Not for purposes of the actual course I've been teaching for over 20 years, but for the College Board's AP Course Audit.

Seems there's been too much ambiguity in what constitutes an Advanced Placement course as AP has grown more popular throughout the land (and around the world). The College Board felt the need to reign things in. So AP teachers were suddenly set upon with the burden of proving the worthiness of the courses they taught.

Yes, the very AP teachers who deliver college-level content to the best and brightest students, teachers who's "success" or "failure" can be seen in their students' pass rates, teachers who are--at some schools--asked to provide lesson plans to school administrators for purposes of documenting the fact that the portion of the school year following the AP exam will be spent doing academically rigorous coursework, those teachers had yet another task to perform.

And it was no trivial task. Rather it required extensive reading of background material and review of sample syllabi before beginning. Then it was off to matching your course to the College Board's expectations. I suppose if you were just starting a course, the process would be simpler. Just adopt one of the sample syllabi given.

For me, it was not so simple. I've crafted an AP course that was designed to work at my school for my students. I wasn't looking to scrap it and start from scratch.

Amusingly, the College Board recommends that AP Physics B should be a second-year course. But each of the example syllabi appeared to be AP Physics B as a first-year course. I suddenly discovered that my scheme of covering California academic content standards in my first-year non-AP course and covering everything else the College Board needs in my second-year AP course wasn't necessarily what this audit process was calling for. Suddenly the first-year AP Physics B course looked much more appealing.

The audit seemed to want every topic on the AP Physics B exam to be taught at the AP level. There appeared to be no benefit in having a first-year course to cover the basics and then a second-year course to build upon those basics. I was concerned, but I wasn't keen to scrap my two-year program. And again, other communications from the College Board openly promoted AP Physics as a second-year course. Having followed that recommendation suddenly put me in a bind for producing the kind of syllabus they wanted.

The sample syllabi were easy-breezy two- or three-page outlines. The monster I submitted was a nine-page tome. With small type.

I met the June 1st deadline for submission. Just. And I settled in for the promised two-month wait. Yesterday, I got the good-news email. The authorization is for Dean Baird's AP Physics B program at Rio Americano. If a new teacher comes along, they'll have to go through the audit. If I move to another school, I'll have to go through the audit again.


Anonymous said...

Huzzah! Given the work involved in the synthesis, it seems quite AP-propriate. Doug

Dean Baird said...

I think I should get a T-shirt out of the deal. There is a curiosity in the sense that the College Board and ETS are earning revenue from students in AP classes. The exam fee is approaching $100. At Rio, hundreds of exams are ordered each year. Rest assured that the teachers who prepare students for the AP exams reap no benefits from the College Board or ETS. Well, I suppose it's nice we didn't have to pay to get approved.