Every year, Blair teachers struggle to complete Advanced Placement (AP) course curricula and review for exams in time for the AP tests in early May. Every year, Blair students and teachers have significantly less time to prepare for the exams than many others across the country. And every year, the College Board determines that there is not enough nationwide support for a dual-date policy, which would allow the administration of the exams in early May and again in late May.
Blair students should not miss out on the dual-date opportunity simply because other schools, which start earlier in the year and therefore have more time to prepare for the exams, oppose it.
This year, in its rationale for rejecting the proposal, the College Board explained that seniors from the majority of high schools surveyed would be unable to take the exams during the last two weeks of May because either they would have already graduated or they would be taking senior exams, as is the case at Blair. However, dual-testing could still benefit juniors and sophomores, as well as those seniors who were willing and able to take the exams later.
Blazers, who start school during the last week of August, have three weeks fewer to prepare than students in many Southern states, where school often begins in early August.
AP U.S. History teacher George Vlasits feels that he needs the extra time to cover an entire year of college-level curriculum. "I'm always feeling pretty scrunched," Vlasits said, adding that he is forced to rush through the last two units of his course, spending only two weeks on the fifty years between 1940 and 1990.
Similarly, in Kenneth Seat's AP World History class, Seat spent a grand total of thirty minutes on World War II, arguably the most important war in history, due to timing constraints. Vlasits' and Seat's dilemmas are not the result of poor time management. The blame lies with the College Board, which, by refusing to allow the dual-date proposal, is denying teachers such as Vlasits, Seat and many others at Blair adequate time to teach all units of their curriculum that appears on the AP exam.
With AP teachers rushing to finish their curriculum before the test, it is difficult to schedule in-class review time. When students sign up for AP classes, they accept that they will have a large workload, but the burden of preparing for exams should not fall squarely on students' shoulders.
To this end, Seat, Vlasits and many others organized review sessions on weekends, after school and at lunch, taking time out of their own and their students' personal schedules to conduct review for the exams. This extracurricular review would not be necessary if Blair was allowed two more weeks to prepare for AP exams.
In addition to forcing teachers and students to conduct review outside of class, the early May testing dates create a void of unused time between the administration of the AP test and the end of school. As a result, teachers explore material less relevant to the test, often through movies. For example, the AP Biology class has watched "Legally Blonde" and episodes of "Grey's Anatomy" and will continue viewing shows and movies until school ends.
While most Blazers who have taken AP classes appreciate the opportunity to relax after the AP test, the fact remains that valuable learning time is being wasted in those last three weeks. Even Vlasits admits that, "basically, we stop doing anything after the AP test."
In recognition of the disparity between school start dates, the College Board is currently working toward implementing a new plan which would allow schools to select AP exam dates at their own discretion, be that in January, May or June. This kind of solution, which may be available in 2009 or 2010, should have been proposed earlier, but is nonetheless a step in the right direction.
That said, until the College Board rethinks its decision to quash the dual-date proposal, a viable short-term solution, Blazers will continue to be disadvantaged compared to those from other schools that start earlier in the year when the early May test dates arrive.
Jordan Fein. Jordan Fein is a magnet senior (woot!) who is enamored of politics and journalism. He is very politically active and enjoys talking politics with whomever is willing. Politics, politics, politics. He is looking forward to his second year of writing on Silver Chips and especially … More »