The upcoming AP audit (January 2007) that will be asking teachers and Principals to sign off on certain criteria that their AP courses are fulfilling, is provoking a LOT of controversy amongst teachers. You can read more detail here;
I think that there is a fundamental problem with the audit in terms of the lab requirement. Imagine if you will, this scenario;
Teacher “A” is currently teaching an AP class that is producing great AP scores. For some reason (either through no fault of her own, or perhaps through a fundamental philosophical disagreement, or perhaps via any number of other possible reasons) she and her principal feel unable to sign off on her class as fulfilling the audit criteria. As a result her class is no longer designated “AP” on the transcript. Anyway, she decides to carry on teaching the class that she knows is “AP standard” and the kids continue to get stunning scores. What is the result? Is it?
1. Kids scoring 4′ and 5’s on the exam (that the CB describe as Well Qualified and Extremely Well Qualified) suddenly become UNqualified?
2. That actually the AP score itself is meaningless because in order for it to mean something we have to check if a kid has done an audited course?
3. That the transcript grades for audited AP classes (that have no standards applied on a daily basis or criteria applied to the grades generated) are more important than AP scores?
4. A combination of all of the above, or a whole bunch of other considerations?
To me, the AP scores ARE the audit!
I think that at the bottom of all of this the CB are wrestling with the problem of how to emphasize and include lab work as part of the AP assessment. The audit is certainly well-meaning in that respect, and it could be argued that it is a step in the right direction, but truthfully the ONLY way to ultimately fully examine lab work is to either have teacher assessed labs that form part of the AP grade, or to have a lab exam. The audit is really only a halfway house that is likely to have limited success. TIME spent doing labs in order to satisfy an audit is NOT the same as lab knowledge. Knowledge has to be examined. Both the lab exam and he teacher assessed lab work are ABSOLUTELY practical options that DO work extremely well in other countries with great success. Would it be a huge logistical task to get it off the ground? Most definitely, but it is the only true way to examine practical chemistry work at this level.
Doesn’t the audit on some level say that the exam is flawed? If a kid takes a copy of Zumdahl or Chang, and studies the first 18 chapter or so, he could probably get a 3 and some of them are dilligent and resourceful enough to get a 5, we’ve all had one, usually one a year. this would be much more the case with a kid already having had a chem course. I think the audit is more in response to the growth of the IB because those kids are probably much stronger at lab planning and thinking things through due to the mandates of the lab portion of the IB course. I do few labs requiring students to plan their actions, but mostly they are so studetns can do the same things that are done in calculations, like calculate molar mass from freezing point depression etc. Realisticaly, a teacher could demo every lab on the AP curriculum list and let students record data and do calculations and they could get by the questions on the AP. My ideal soultion, an externally moderated lab component similar or exactly like IB with the AP questions for Free response and Multiple choice. The IB questions are not all-encompassing enough for my taste. But I really doubt the Audit is anything more than a paper dog and pony show. Looking back to my star student above, Is any college or university going to exclude his 5 on the exam because he does not have an AP chem course listed on the Transcript, I doubt it, since the college board seems quite willing to take money from anyone who wishes to pay to take an exam.