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What’s unfair about AP, #4

 It has been a few days since my students took the AP English Literature examination. Now it’s time to do a little reflection.

The good news is that my students felt prepared and were generally happy about their performance on the test. Also good was that my students reported that the test was a fair one. (Teachers never get to see the multiple-choice section and receive the essay prompts at a later date.)

But there was plenty bad news, too.

For one, the testing space — a middle-school science laboratory, complete with Bunsen burners — was incredibly uncomfortable for my students. The lab stools were high and didn’t have chair backs. Yes, lots of discomfort. When I tested the stools, they didn’t seem uncomfortable to me, but then again, I didn’t have to remain immobile for three hours.

Several students reported that they spent an entire hour writing their essays standing up. One student said he had to sprawl out on top of the lab table in order to complete his last essay.

Horrible conditions, right? Actually, no. For our school, this was the best testing space we’ve had in years, and it took considerable work on the part of the administration. In the past, students have had to take their tests next to loud classrooms or down in cold basement storage.

I told my friend about my students’ testing room. She reminded me that we took our AP tests in a lush Hewlett-Packard conference room.

It’s just another thing that’s unfair about the AP. Because schools must furnish the testing space for students, underfunded urban schools get short shrift.

That’s right: Every student across the country takes the exact same test, but my students — who already have to scrap to pass it — have to overcome a makeshift space. They don’t mind; they’ve done it all their lives.

But it’s still bothersome. 

Please share your brilliant insights!