The debate on how to assess and figure Advanced Placement courses into a student's grade point average (GPA) just can't seem to go away.
The issue was batted around at a meeting of the school board's Curriculum, Instruction and Technology Committee last week.
The discussion centered around two planned instruction reviews - Advanced Biology and AP Biology. The Warren County School District is in the process of updating all of its course descriptions to be in line with the Common Core standards, the state's new standards which will be assessed by the Keystone Exams, which students begin taking next week.
While talks focused on the difference between Advanced and AP Biology, the discussion quickly shifted to the topic of Advanced Placement.
Currently, students are not required to take the end-of-the-year AP Exam where college-level credit would be awarded with a passing grade because there is cost attached to the test. "When the decision was made not to make students take the exam, I thought we left there that we were going to do a mock final exam," former board member Kim Angove told the committee. "If you took the class at Eisenhower or Warren, there was a mock final, essentially the rigor of an AP exam whether or not you took it (the actual AP exam). That was the direction we were going, so there was at least a consistency for that exam."
"There is no standard exam specifically written in" the Honors and AP planned instructions, board member John Grant said.
"We're not doing common assessments across the board like that," said Amy Stewart, district director of administrative support services.
"In our AP classes, do teachers use the AP syllabus regardless of whether students take the exam," board member Jack Werner asked.
"It's a syllabus approved by AP, not an AP syllabus," Director of Secondary Education Gary Weber replied.
Arguing that a course is not AP until a student takes the test, Grant said, "Then call it AP when they take the exam. Give them credit for the Honors course. Don't call it an approved curriculum for AP."
Regarding the test, "We use preparation materials. They (students) are geared up," Stewart said. "They take (preparation) very seriously. A lot of students take these because they know the college they are going to won't accept the AP credit, but they want to be prepared for their freshman bio (biology) experience."
"Right now these are two distinct curriculums," Curriculum, Instruction and Technology Committee chair Dr. Paul Yourchisin said. "AP is more rigorous."
In response to Grant's idea that an AP course isn't AP until a student takes the test, board president Arthur Stewart said the cost of the exam presents a "sticky legal problem." He explained that unless the district wants to pay for students to take the AP exam, the district can't withhold AP credit and expect families to pick up the tab for the test.
Amy Stewart said, "One other sticky point. The majority of our students (in AP courses) are probably seniors (and) would be graduated before they received the results of the exam." That would make calculating GPA in time to determine class rank impossible.
"Is it feasible to have a mock AP exam as the final exam" for the course, telling teachers that "this is what you have to give. You are then saying that every kid is taking the AP exam," Angove said.
"It's absolutely feasible," Superintendent Brandon Hufnagel said. "One of the things we are working towards (is) common assessments so we can see the kids across the district and how they are doing."