What I Learned At the AP Annual Conference

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Written by Mike Hobolth, Associate Principal, Zemmer Campus, Lapeer Community Schools. Mike has been an MASSP member for nearly 20 years. Contact him at mhobolth@lapeerschools.org

Nothing much happened in Washington this summer; politicians apparently get sick of each other and go home to tweet about the President. But the AP Annual Conference held in DC in July was certainly active. The Advanced Placement Program made a couple big announcements that will impact things for a long time, starting in the next couple of years.

Beginning fall 2019, AP will offer a number of enhancements and changes in services that will support AP teachers in their work. These initiatives will include:

Question banks: Teachers will be able to access a searchable database for thousands of vetted AP questions, both multiple choice and free response, that they can use in assessments and activities.
Unit tests: The College Board will provide some of their courses with unit guides and unit assessments, which should serve as excellent formative assessments for keeping students and teachers on track as they progress to the end-of-course assessments.

Khan Academy: Khan will extend their current SAT partnership with the College Board to include becoming the official student practice provider for Advanced Placement. As with Khan SAT practice, students will receive customized practice and feedback, in this case with their specific AP course. This partnership will give students and teachers powerful tools to improve, analyze and manage student AP performance.
Digital activation: Students will begin the year in their AP courses by going through a registration process with the College Board. This will be the basis of other service enhancements in the future.

Earlier exam registration: Students will be expected to register for AP exams, held in May, in the fall of their AP course; this change will make it possible for the College Board to finance all of these enhancements with (yes, this is the plan) no additions to the exam fees.

More information about these supports are available at AP Central's 2019 website.

The other big announcement has to do with formalized Pre-AP courses for ninth grade students. This shoe was dropped at last year's APAC and has been talked about for years; fall 2018 is the pilot for this ambitious and potentially game-changing circumstance. Quick points about this:

  • Courses will include Pre-AP English 9, Algebra 1, World History, Biology and a visual/performing arts elective.
  • Schools and teachers will go through a process similar to the AP Course Audit; teachers will need to submit a syllabus for approval in order to be endorsed to teach the College Board's Pre-AP courses. Once that happens, schools can use the Pre-AP designation for those courses in their course catalogs and student transcripts.
  • Applications are being taken for the initial cohort of Pre-AP schools; 100 schools will be selected to begin offering courses in fall 2018. An additional 200 schools will be selected for fall 2019, and enrollment for all schools is expected to begin fall 2020.
  • Schools who participate in the College Board's Pre-AP program will be required to adopt and publish an "open enrollment" policy, meaning the courses must be made available to all of the school's enrolled students.
  • Cost per course seems like a work in progress, but schools may be looking a fee paid to the College Board of around $4000; the services this will pay for will be announced to selected schools in the near future.
  • The first cohort of 100 schools for the 2018-19 school year will be selected from applications, available on the Pre-AP website. Plans are to continue this pilot with a second cohort of 200 in 2019-2020 before opening enrollment to all schools in the fall of 2020.
  • There is a plan in the works for Pre-AP courses to include end-of-course assessments; this will probably not happen in the 2018-19 year, but we should hear more about this soon as well.

More about this initiative, including help with applying for the 2018 cohort, are available on the College Board's Pre-AP website. This is significant news; I am planning to write a separate article on this idea in the near future.

Finally, the next AP course redesign will be US Government and Politics, starting in fall 2018. AP Government teachers will want to pay attention to opportunities for summer training, as well as January announcements about College Board scholarships for AP Summer Institutes.

Next summer's APAC is planned for Houston, July 19-22, 2018. I'm hoping to present there, but in any event, I'm planning to go. Planet AP is getting a little more interesting.