College Board audits AP teachers

April 19, 2007, midnight | By Laura Mirviss | 13 years, 9 months ago

Teachers must submit course syllabus for approval

All advanced placement (AP) teachers must submit a course syllabus to College Board before June 1 in order to continue teaching an AP course next year. Classes that are not approved may submit revised documentation up to three times before being rejected.

In an effort to check that the sharp rise in AP courses all offer college-level study, the College Board has mandated that every AP teacher in the nation must submit a syllabus to be evaluated by a professor in the field.

College Board liaison Tom Matts says the goal of the AP audit is not to eliminate any AP course but to ensure that teachers are aware of the specific requirements of the AP curriculum. He said that while it is not up to the College Board's to determine which teachers are qualified, it has to designate the courses that can continue to carry the AP label in the fall. Matts said that there is a 79 percent approval rate for initial submission, and 99 percent of teachers who have resubmitted documentation have been approved.

Getting courses approved

Two Blair teachers' syllabi have been approved as of March 31. AP Literature and Composition teacher Judith Smith submitted her syllabus two days after the College Board began accepting documentation, and was approved three and a half weeks later. "I wasn't sure I wanted to send it in so quickly," she said. "I thought maybe I'd keep it and obsess over it." Smith ultimately decided to send her syllabus after she was encouraged to do so by English Deparment Resource Teacher Vickie Adamson.

Matts said the College Board has received over 40,000 syllabi so far. For each of the 37 AP courses offered, the College Board has compiled a list of required objectives that teachers must outline in their syllabi. Matts said that there is a clearly articulated list of requirements for each subject on, which has been available on the site for over a year.

A submitted syllabus is judged by a college professor in the field based on its adherence to those requirements. Matts said that there must be clear evidence that the requirements have been met.

Social studies teacher Brian Hinkle has also received approval for both his AP Macroeconomics and AP Microeconomics courses.

In addition to basic documentation, AP science teachers must include laboratory activities, as mandated by the College Board requirements. James Schafer, who teaches AP Physics, submitted his syllabus on March 30 and is waiting for his results.

Schafer says that he submitted a four-page syllabus for both semesters of his course after attending a science department meeting that explained what each AP teacher was required to complete. At the meeting, teachers reviewed sample syllabi and the requirements of each course. The samples ranged from three to 12 pages for each semester, which Schafer said showed teachers the depth required for approval.

Smith says that the process took between nine and 10 hours, but she says attending an after-school preparatory session at Walter Johnson made the process easier. At the meeting last fall, teachers received sample syllabi from four retired AP Literature teachers and were given a list of indicators that the College Board requires for approval.

The AP World History teachers have also met to compile a syllabus but have not yet submitted a document to the College Board. "We're working together to get ready for each of us to submit our own," said Rondai Ravilious, who teaches two AP World History classes. So far, Ravilious has spent between two and three hours reviewing course materials and making sure she is comfortable with the material she plans to include.

Passing muster

Social studies resource teacher George Vlasits says that his department alone has 14 different AP teachers who must submit a syllabus for approval. To date, AP Psychology teachers Margaret Jessell and Julia Smrek and Hinkle are the only teachers in the department who have submitted information to the College Board.

Vlasits has encouraged all other teachers in his department to submit a draft to him by April 15 and a final syllabus to the College Board by May 1. He anticipates that it will take four to six hours to complete his own syllabus and one hour online to submit his completed application.

A positive change

Vlasits, who is an official reader for the AP U.S. History exam each year, said that he believes the AP audit is a positive process that will better the AP curriculum as a whole. "I know what kinds of things are passing as AP courses. College Board is attempting to weed these courses out," he said.

However, Vlasits thinks the audit should be waived for schools that have an established passing record because these teachers have already proven that they are teaching the course at a college level. "They could have exemptions for schools like Blair, whose passing rate is so incredibly high," he said. "This is just extra work for people who've already proven that they're teaching a college-level course."

Laura Mirviss. Laura Mirviss is far more excited than she should be about being on the Chips staff this year. She loves field hockey, lacrosse, The New Yorker, and Ben and Jerry's. When trying to keep things in perspective, Laura likes to remember the words of Ferris … More »

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