22 January 2010


EconLog | Arnold Kling | Market Failure

As a high school AP teacher, I have had to suffer through "audits" by the College Board. My students' scores on the AP are not part of the audit. Even if a student gets a perfect score on the AP, that student cannot be said to have taken an AP course unless I passed the audit. Now that I have passed the audit, however, no matter how many of my students fail the AP, my course will count as an AP course as certified by the College Board. Credentialism at its best.
I signed up for the AP English Language exam my senior year despite not having taken the corresponding class in an attempt to avoid Freshman Composition at ND. My high school English department, by reputation one of the best at the school and the county, tried furiously to have me blocked from taking the test. This was, of course, entirely outside of their jurisdiction; any student can sign up for any exam they wish. When this failed, the AP Language teacher tried to have me marked absent from the classes I would miss while taking the exam, even though all the other students were excused. Apparently she even tried to get the county superintendent to intercede on her behalf.

I was told by one of her fellow teachers that she viewed it as a no-win for her. If I did poorly, it would bring down the school's average score on the test, which would reflect badly on her. If I did well, she would be revealed as semi-superfluous, which would reflect badly on her. They had built up this whole mythology that the huge amounts of busy work required in the AP English classes were the only ways to insure you got a good score, when it was really the educational equivalent of a rain dance.

Anyway, go read the rest of Kling's post. I'm not so sure I buy his thesis of market failure as blocked innovation, but he still has interesting things to say.

PS For the record, my results did end up reflecting poorly on that teacher. I won't say why.

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