Published Jan. 26, 2021
By ROSE MATHEWS
After the College Board notified teachers of its plan to administer traditional full-length AP exams, CHS AP instructors, responsible for the 19 different AP classes offered at CHS, are finding some challenges to preparing their students during distance-learning.
Last year, colleges accepted abbreviated exams for incoming and prospective students, but now many colleges are pushing for students to take the full exams this year, according to the College Board. A survey from the College Board showed a majority of AP teachers wanted the full exams as well.
To accommodate schools that are behind or unable to take in-person tests due to the pandemic, the College Board is offering two contingency dates for each subject, one in May and the other in June, both of which can be taken from home.
Jason Maas-Baldwin, who teaches AP Environmental Science and AP Chemistry, thinks that this will be helpful. However, with 444 CHS students signed up to take 935 exams, not all teachers are satisfied with the current arrangement.
Suzanne Marden, who teaches AP French, says that limited instructional time is a large obstacle for her, as classes on average lose an hour of instruction per week, a total of around 36 hours this year due to the distance-learning schedule.
To ensure there would be enough time to cover all the essential skills for the exam, a third of the original AP Language and Composition curriculum was cut, according to Barbara McBride, the English department chair at CHS.
“While I agree that the exam should be comprehensive, I would like to see the College Board trim the length and scope of the exam to some extent, under the circumstances,” McBride says.
McBride and Marden both worry about the length of the exam, as students haven’t been able to build up their testing stamina, and there could be many technology or environment-caused interruptions.
“There is a lot of room for error,” Marden says.
For the AP French exam, students must upload two written files and two audio files, which could be difficult without a speedy internet connection, and it would be easy for students to cheat.
On the other hand, AP Spanish will not be impacted much, according to Olga Chandler, who says she is teaching the class at the same pace as usual.
Tom Clifford, who teaches AP Computer Science and AP Computer Science Principles, believes that the full exams should be given since an abbreviated version would mean a less in-depth course. At the same time, he worries that the College Board might change its plan later this year, given the circumstances.
Despite differences of opinion on other things, there is a consensus that the exams are not the most important thing in the world.
“Test scores during a once-in-many-generations pandemic are not the most important measure of a human being’s ability to succeed in college,” Maas-Baldwin says. “The perseverance of students through this difficult time says much more than a test score.”
World languages are special in Chandler’s opinion because they allow students to travel, work and live in other countries. Preparing students for those kinds of things is the real focus of her class, she says.
Despite the difficulty and uncertainty surrounding AP exams, teachers continue to help their students be successful.
“The whole thing is unfortunate and no one’s fault per se,” says Marden. “I will continue to support my students’ growth and progress as best as I can for a full exam within reason. I hope it is enough.”
The College Board will have more information about exams in early February and will share it with teachers, administrators and AP coordinators via email. Current plans are posted on the College Board website along with various resources for students and teachers.