Advanced Placement changes irk some local educators

BY RYAN COLE | JANUARY 18, 2011 7:10 AM

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A number of local public-school teachers have reacted negatively to recent amendments to advanced-placement course curricula.

Educators from both City High and West High indicated they opposed the idea of a change in course material and exams. Alterations include removing penalties for wrong answers on the exams.

“We’re struggling to keep [advanced-placement courses] challenging and rigorous enough,” said West High Principal Jerry Arganbright.

Representatives from the College Board — the organization responsible for advanced-placement content — will release a revised curriculum for biology on Feb. 1. It will be designed to replace the current model by the 2012-13 school year, and it is in the final stages of review.

In 2010, 49.2 percent of advanced-placement biology test-takers around the nation earned a passing score of 3 or higher on a 1 to 5 scale. More than 35 percent received a score of 1.

Comparatively, 58 percent of all advanced-placement test-takers that year earned a passing score, with only 21.6 percent receiving a 1.

The revisions, which the College Board is enacting in several additional subjects as well, aim to provide “greater flexibility and support for teachers seeking to deepen their students’ conceptual understanding,” according to the group’s website.

City High advanced-placement biology instructor Kevin Koepnick said a change in curriculum is unnecessary.

Koepnick, who stresses real-world experience through lab work, admitted to sometimes feeling overwhelmed by the class content. But he finds his way through the material by simply “focus[ing] on areas most conducive to student success.”

“Teaching is not about the students’ curriculum or how they do on a test but about relationships,” said Koepnick, who saw most of his students earn a 3 or higher on the exam.

Similarly, Arganbright said he hasn’t heard complaints from the nearly 100 students and four teachers immersed in the school’s advanced-placement biology curriculum. He said students in biology and the school’s 13 other advanced-placement courses look for a more challenging curricula.

Educators in other areas said they find the revisions unnecessary as well.

Steve Dodge, who teaches advanced-placement economics at City High, said economics is periodically adjusted based on current trends. He said the students he teaches are well-equipped to handle the current workload.

“They’re pretty motivated and focused,” he said. “Many of them really thrive on being busy.”

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