By David Wang
The higher-education company College Board recently launched AP Classroom, an innovation that’s being met with a mixed blend of praise and criticism. Introduced this August, AP Classroom is intended to help students and teachers prepare for the Advanced Placement (AP) exams in May. College Board says that its new system will give educators “more practice materials and insight into the exam than ever before.” Since AP Classroom has just been released, test-takers and teachers alike are wondering how well AP Classroom will be able to measure up to its potential.
The new AP Classroom is one of several additions to the AP process that the College Board is implementing this school year, including changes to the AP exam payments ($94 per exam), which are now due in early November instead of March. According to College Board, these changes “ensure that students don’t wait until the last minute to make a decision,” and increases the likelihood that students will remain engaged in and committed to their AP courses.
College Board has also chosen to manage the AP process at the school level, dividing up individual school members into principals, coordinators, teachers, and students. Students can join a teacher’s AP Classroom and are automatically registered for the test upon entering the AP class code. Once part of an AP Classroom, students have access to questions that their teacher has unlocked; these questions are supposed to help teachers monitor student progress in curriculum subtopics. One slight concern is that these Personal Progress Checks are somewhat rigid; many teachers’ lessons are far more dynamic and do not always correspond exactly with the AP syllabus.
Another area of concern for teachers and students alike is that the AP Classroom website is glitchy at times. Teachers have reported seeing randomly submitted assignments, and students have reported being unable to access material that they should be able to access. “They’ve created a format that’s pretty much unusable,” said Derek Wells, an AP Physics teacher at South. “I’m taking problems [straight from the website] that I like and using them in my class because the website is poorly designed.” How this will impact the way the website is used by students and teachers can’t be determined as of now, but it does indicate that teachers are willing to quickly adapt to minor problems that arise.
It’s likely that College Board came up with these new tools as a result of pressure from mounting competition. Many AP prep alternatives exist, whether through a screen or through the traditional pencil and paper. There are the tried-and-true methods of burning through Barron’s prep books and cramming loads of info through flash cards. Tech-savvy studiers might opt for websites like albert.io, which offer lesson plans and AP-style questions, often for affordable prices. College Board is offering similar options to crowd out the market, getting rid of the need for external prep alternatives and middlemen.
Ultimately, an estimated seven million students—and that’s not including parents, teachers, or administrators—rely on College Board’s services each year. Seven million students are in the hands of College Board, and the company is dependent on those students to turn a profit. With so much on the line, College Board ought to be bold but meticulous in redefining what they offer to students each year.
The effect that AP Classroom and other new policies will have on scores this year remains to be seen. As long as students and educators keep an open mind, the potential that AP Classroom has to transform the AP experience will be realized.