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AP Notations of Block Scheudling

AP and January Examination

September 19, 1996

Over the past three years, the College Board has received many requests for January and late May or June examinations to accommodate intensive semester block scheduling in secondary schools. The Program will move the May examination schedule one week later in 1998. Since block scheduling is most common in the South and Midwest, where the school year tends to end in late May, it does not appear practical to move the examination period any later. In response to the requests for January examinations, AP staff have gathered information through sex questionnaires, telephone surveys, open forums with AP teachers, discussions at regional meetings and workshops, and analysis of examination performance. We have discussed and will continue to discuss the matter with the College Board?s Guidance and Admissions and the Academic Assembly Councils, we will assemble a small advisory group of principals, teachers, and guidance counselors for a protracted discussion.

In general, block scheduling is a restructuring of the school day into fewer and longer classes (e.g., four 90-minute periods instead of seven 50-=minute periods), but there are many variations--often within the same high school or even in the same course. There appear to be three basic schemes:

In the first, often called intensive or semester or 4 by 4 block scheduling, a year-long AP course is compressed into a half year and meets every day for about 90 minutes.

In the second scheme, often called AP block scheduling, an AP course is scheduled to meet every other day for about 90 minutes during the entire school year.

In the third, often called year-round block scheduling, an AP course that normally covers and entire school year continues to meet for the entire school year or for three marking periods every day for 90 minutes.

Only the first scheme creates a demand for January examinations.

"Program staff are in the process of gathering and formulating strategies used by AP teachers who teach in block scheduling situations. It appears that the most successful by far are those who have convinced their administrations to schedule their course over a full year--apparently the majority of AP teachers. These strategies will be widely shared, will inform our publications and workshops, and will be developed into a separate program publication...."

Recommendation on January Examinations

At this time, AP staff recommend that no action be taken to develop January examinations. Studies will be repeated each year, to see whether a different recommendation is warranted. There are five reason why no action appears to be warranted at this time.

1. The potential volume, even in 1999, is too small. It the latest survey of examinees, with 69% responding, only 1.5% (about 8,500) reported that they took a year-long AP coursed offered only in the fall. There were only five examinations for year-long courses in which over 500 students said that they took a course offered only in the fall. The schools that indicated they utilized intensive semester block scheduling for AP courses had only 8,150 examinations in both semesters.

2. The cost of each January examination, assuming a continued modest growth in volume, would be about $200. Those surveyed indicated that this cost should be assumed only by students who benefit from the January administration but that the cost should be about the same for the two administrations. Both goals can not be accomplished at the same time while maintaining quality.

3. Students who completed year-long courses offered only in the fall or only in the spring tended to perform poorly on AP examinations in 1995 and 1996. Of the thirteen examinations in which there were 100 or more semester intensive block scheduled students, those who took the course over a full year averaged higher scores in 77% of (20 of 26) cases. In calculus, history, and the sciences, mean grades for block scheduled students were about 0.6 (about half a standard deviation) lower than the mean for students who took the course over the full year.

4. In several surveys and meetings, AP teachers, coordinators, readers, and test development committee members overwhelmingly opposed both semester block scheduling and January examinations. The opposition appeared to be strongest among teachers in block scheduling schools.

5. With January examinations, it would be more difficult to maintain quality of service and validity. There is particular concern about the test development and the reading process.

The College Board makes no recommendation on block scheduling itself and cautions that the generally weaker performance of AP students who prepared for the examinations through intensive semester courses can not be generalized to non-AP courses offered in that format. There is a need for controlled, longitudinal studies on the impact of block scheduling upon learning.

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