A.P. Testing: bubbling your future

From emptying our pockets to destroying our confidence, AP exams have continued to become the norm of high school education...with consequences.

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Exemplary, proficient, emerging and incomplete. Four simple words that have come to characterize and sort students. Student intelligence is no longer represented in how well one can answer a logical question but how accurately you can fill in the bubbles on your Scantron or your interpretation of a Document Based Question. It seems as though students have been increasingly identified by a number such as your GPA, or a test score instead of individuals who each possess distinct qualities and talents.

It’s quite apparent that the nature of school has gone from an environment of learning, to a test-driven curriculum. Instead of one right answer there are now two and instead of the WASL we now have the Smarter Balanced Testing Consortium funded by the federal government. High schools are slowly becoming the new college. Yes, that may be exaggerated but when you take into account the number of standardized tests, AP classes, hours spent on homework and stress this argument can be justified.

Learning has become more about preparing for tests, and it has taken away from our education. Students spend long hours studying for tests, not actually learn the content. Instead of discovering what polyatomic ions really are, we are really working on our temporary memorization skills. By the time we get into high school, most of us have a consistent set of studying habits, but school tries to transform us into someone else.

The amount of pressure combined with the high costs have drastically changed our education system. Schools and classes are now experimenting with the flipped classroom, and there is an abnormal amount of favoritism.

Students are now chasing after AP classes and placing an importance on “looking smart” or getting a college credit. It is common for Bellevue students to take multiple AP classes in order impress colleges, please their parents, do what their friends or are doing, or maybe just for a simple challenge. Furthermore, the AP system and our public education system can greatly deceive and in some cases take of our money, academic careers and self-esteem.

According to US News and Education, roughly 88 percent of Bellevue High Students take an AP class as of the 2014-2015 school year. Of that 88 percent only 69 percent pass. To compound that AP exams cost anywhere from 90 to 140 dollars per test.

We are forced to pay, and yet not everybody passes. Some teachers have even said that if students don’t take the AP test they will give a difficult final. It’s a major institutional investment that happens to occupy most of our high school careers and can impact our life after that.

The College Board, the organization that produces all AP tests as well as the SAT, claim to be non-profit organizations, but in reality a members of the board are sitting behind a desk making millions of dollars.

On another note, within the last couple years, many states have been implementing something called Common Core. Forty-five states, the District of Columbia, and four territories have adopted the standards. While this might seem like a reasonable thing to adopt, states are also investing millions of dollars into companies that provide tests, textbooks, and instruction materials designed to help us reach those standards at the end of each grade.

The federal government has since then granted contracts to two large education companies; Smarter Balanced Testing Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College or Careers (PARCC). The companies then test us on the “common core” standards. The issue has become a topic of discussion in the debates for the 2016 presidential election.

Additionally, the state evaluates high schools based on specific test scores, so if more students take more AP classes and do well on assessments such as the Smarter Balanced Assessment, then that will presumably boost the school’s reputation while also making people millions of dollars along the way.

Granted, we go to one of the best high schools in the state and have some of the best administrators and teachers, but everything always seems to be changing. Every year it seems we have new tests, new classes, and that poses a question, but why? What are they hiding from us? To conclude, there are a lot of things happening under the surface that we are not aware about, and it is important for people to realize that the education system is not perfect, so make sure that you know what you’re in for when you sign up for five AP classes and consequently pay 460 dollars just for taking a class.

Our education system is like an equation, and when you really think about it, that equation is becoming increasingly unbalanced.

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