UTC: Thursday, February 21st, 2019

My 2013-14 AP Chemistry Audit – the story

Today I have submitted my 2013-14 AP Chemistry Syllabus/Audit  (version 1 with more anticipated), and I thought it might be fun (and perhaps informative!) for me to document the process here.

My thoughts on the original audit (and the latest one) are well documented, and I see no point in a detailed re-hashing all of that here, other than to give a very quick bulleted summary that might give some context.

  • I see no point in an audit without a formal follow-up procedure to check that people are actually doing what they said they would
  • I have always felt that if AP scores are decent, that of the quality of an AP course is self-apparent without an audit
  • I feel that the audit has only really become necessary, since the College Board have still not implemented a lab assessment component for AP

In the past I have elaborated on each of those points so I will not do that here.

I am going to keep a chronological list of things that happen in my audit process, so stay tuned for more updates – this might be fun!

Sunday, June 16th 2013

– Audit Form completed and sent to my school administrator for approval. The Audit Form is a simple checklist that asks the teacher to initial and confirm that they will be teaching the AP course at the institution, and that they have read (and addressed) each of curriculum documents and requirements (or alternative approaches). This is apparently the first step in the audit process, and the submitted audit cannot even be reviewed, until someone at my school comments upon the Audit Form. However, I suppose that a reviewer could decide to review the audit in anticipation of receiving the confirmed audit form.

– Syllabus/Audit submitted to the College Board.

Both of these actions were accompanied by confirmatory emails and confirmed in my personal audit area.

Audit Screen

Audit Screen

– I informed my administrators that their approval of the Audit Form was required before the audit can even be reviewed.

Apparently I should hear something within 60 days(!), now we wait…………….

Tuesday, June 18th 2013

– I received notification that my Audit Form had been approved, and almost immediately got an email from the College Board confirming that my syllabus/audit was now formally under review.

Approved Audit Form

Approved Audit Form

‘Thank you for submitting your syllabus and AP Course Audit form for Chemistry. Your syllabus is currently under review. Please allow sixty days from the date of this email for the review process to be completed.

Within 60 days, you will receive an email indicating that either your course has been authorized or that additional information is required before your course can be authorized.’

Adjusted Status

Adjusted Status

60 days away from hearing more (perhaps).

Monday, June 24th 2013

– The experts have spoken. and I apparently have a lot of work to do before I am allowed to teach an AP Chemistry course!

– The criticisms of 3a-f seem straightforward to fix, but I don’t really understand why I have to state this. Seems ridiculous since it seems like this is basically ‘please tell us that you are going to teach the course?’. Duh. What do you think I am doing?

– Let’s just say that 4. is a departure for me and leave it at that. I’ll have the kids read a news article. Really?

– Changing one word fixes 5a, and listing the 16 labs in the College Board lab manual with some potential inquiry-based ones identified should fix 5b and 6.

– I wrote half-a-dozen words to fix 7.

The email response on version #1 is shown below

Dear Adrian Dingle:

Thank you for submitting your AP Chemistry syllabus for The Westminster Schools as part of the 2013 – 2014 AP Course Audit. We need some additional information from you in order to authorize your course. Two expert reviewers have examined your syllabus independently and were unable to confirm that it included clear, explicit evidence of one or more of the scoring components within the curricular requirements. Given the relative complexity of a course syllabus and the variety of ways each requirement or its components can be fulfilled, the reviewers may have interpreted your syllabus somewhat differently than you had intended. In order to move quickly to a resolution and authorize your course, we need you to address the specific scoring component(s) identified below and then resubmit your revised syllabus for further review.

Component 3a: The course provides students with opportunities outside the laboratory environment to meet the learning objectives within Big Idea 1: Structure of matter.
Evaluation Guideline: The syllabus must briefly describe at least one assignment or activity outside the laboratory environment designed to meet one learning objective within Big Idea 1.
Rating: No Evidence

Component 3b: The course provides students with opportunities outside the laboratory environment to meet the learning objectives within Big Idea 2: Properties of matter–characteristics, states, and forces of attraction.
Evaluation Guideline: The syllabus must briefly describe at least one assignment or activity outside the laboratory environment designed to meet one learning objective within Big Idea 2.
Rating: No Evidence

Component 3c: The course provides students with opportunities outside the laboratory environment to meet the learning objectives within Big Idea 3: Chemical reactions.
Evaluation Guideline: The syllabus must briefly describe at least one assignment or activity outside the laboratory environment designed to meet one learning objective within Big Idea 3.
Rating: No Evidence

Component 3d: The course provides students with opportunities outside the laboratory environment to meet the learning objectives within Big Idea 4: Rates of chemical reactions.
Evaluation Guideline: The syllabus must briefly describe at least one assignment or activity outside the laboratory environment designed to meet one learning objective within Big Idea 4.
Rating: No Evidence

Component 3e: The course provides students with opportunities outside the laboratory environment to meet the learning objectives within Big Idea 5: Thermodynamics.
Evaluation Guideline: The syllabus must briefly describe at least one assignment or activity outside the laboratory environment designed to meet one learning objective within Big Idea 5.
Rating: No Evidence

Component 3f: The course provides students with opportunities outside the laboratory environment to meet the learning objectives within Big Idea 6: Equilibrium.
Evaluation Guideline: The syllabus must briefly describe at least one assignment or activity outside the laboratory environment designed to meet one learning objective within Big Idea 6.
Rating: No Evidence

Component 4: The course provides students with the opportunity to connect their knowledge of chemistry and science to major societal or technological components (e.g., concerns, technological advances, innovations) to help them become scientifically literate citizens.
Evaluation Guideline: The syllabus must describe at least one assignment or activity requiring students to connect their knowledge of chemistry and science to issues that have a societal or technological component.
Rating: No Evidence

Component 5a: Students are provided the opportunity to engage in investigative laboratory work integrated throughout the course for a minimum of 25 percent of instructional time.
Evaluation Guideline: The syllabus must include an explicit statement that at least 25 percent of instructional time is spent in hands-on laboratory experiences integrated throughout the course. Virtual labs do not count towards the 25 percent of instructional time.
Rating: Insufficient Evidence
Rationale: The lab time requirement corresponds to a minimum of 25% of the instructional time, not about 25 % of the time.

Component 5b: Students are provided the opportunity to engage in a minimum of 16 hands-on laboratory experiments integrated throughout the course while using basic laboratory equipment to support the learning objectives listed within the AP Chemistry Curriculum Framework.
Evaluation Guideline: The syllabus must include and describe a minimum of 16 hands-on laboratory investigations that use basic laboratory equipment. Molecular modeling may count for one of the 16 hands-on labs.
Rating: Insufficient Evidence
Rationale: The names of the hands-on, wet laboratories are required information in the syllabus.

Component 6: The laboratory investigations used throughout the course allow students to apply the seven science practices defined in the AP Chemistry Curriculum Framework. At minimum, six of the required 16 labs are conducted in a guided-inquiry format.
Evaluation Guideline: The syllabus must list all laboratory investigations and their associated science practices.
Evaluation Guideline: A minimum of six investigations must be identified as guided inquiry.
Rating: No Evidence

Component 7: The course provides opportunities for students to develop, record, and maintain evidence of their verbal, written, and graphic communication skills through laboratory reports, summaries of literature or scientific investigations, and oral, written, and graphic presentations.
Evaluation Guideline: The syllabus must include the components of the written lab reports required of students for all the laboratory investigations engaged in throughout the course.
Evaluation Guideline: The syllabus must include an explicit statement that students are required to maintain a lab notebook or portfolio (hard-copy or electronic) that includes all of their lab reports.
Rating: Insufficient Evidence
Rationale: The requirement for a laboratory notebook is met; however, the requirement for a description of the components of the laboratory report is not met.

What are my next steps?

1. Review available AP curricular resources.

There are several resources designed to support you as you make the requested modifications to your syllabus.

   * The Syllabus Development Guide is a subject-specific curricular resource that provides a detailed explanation of each scoring component, definitions of key terms, and samples of evidence which highlight the level of detail reviewers expect to see in a college-level syllabus.
   * Four Annotated Sample Syllabi are available that demonstrate the variety of ways teachers can fulfill the curricular requirements within the context of a syllabus.

2. Resubmit your revised syllabus.

When you have made the requested revisions to explicitly demonstrate how your course meets the scoring component(s) identified above, you can then resubmit your syllabus in its entirety following the instructions for resubmission included below.
Deadline for Resubmission
You are encouraged to resubmit your syllabus within two weeks of receipt of this email. Resubmission within this time will ensure that your course completes the review process and remains eligible for AP designation.
Instructions for Resubmission
To resubmit your syllabus, sign in to the AP Course Audit website and click the link on your Course Status page labeled “Resubmit Syllabus”.Please note: You do not need to resubmit the AP Course Audit form.
You have the following resubmission options available to you. You may select:

  1. “Submit New or Revised Syllabus” to submit a syllabus you created.
  2. “Claim Identical” to use a syllabus you share with a colleague. You need to obtain the approved syllabus ID number from your colleague or administrator and submit an exact copy of the syllabus.
  3. “Sample Syllabus” to submit one of the four annotated Sample Syllabi. You need to obtain the approved syllabus ID number from the annotated Sample Syllabus you plan to adopt and submit an exact copy of the syllabus.
  4. “Transfer Approved Syllabus” to transfer your currently approved syllabus to a different school for course authorization.

What if my syllabus is identical to a syllabus previously approved for another instructor?
In rare cases, identical syllabi that are submitted by different teachers and evaluated by different reviewers may receive different outcomes. Although there are valid reasons why this may occur, the AP Course Audit provides an easy to use process to ensure this does not happen. If you want to be certain you receive the same outcome of the approved syllabus, use the Claim Identical submission process.

We appreciate your ongoing efforts to provide students with rigorous, college-level course work. The AP Course Audit is a means to validate and confirm this remarkable achievement, and we thank you for your participation.

If you have questions regarding the AP Course Audit, please send us an email through your Communication Center by logging into your AP Course Audit account at http://www.collegeboard.org/apcourseaudit. Or, you may reach the AP Course Audit

Helpline toll free at 877-APHELP-0 (274-3570); International users call 541-246-2500. The AP Course Audit Helpline is available to assist you Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.

Thank you again for your participation in the AP Course Audit.

Sincerely,
AP Course Audit
Advanced Placement Program

Sunday, June 30th 2013

Amended audit submitted (changes in green) and email response of such received. Now potential for another 60 day wait!

Friday July 12th 2013

Rejected again! Here are the latest shortcomings in my ability to build an AP chemistry course on paper! This is fun!

Component 4: The course provides students with the opportunity to connect their knowledge of chemistry and science to major societal or technological components (e.g., concerns, technological advances, innovations) to help them become scientifically literate citizens.

Evaluation Guideline: The syllabus must describe at least one assignment or activity requiring students to connect their knowledge of chemistry and science to issues that have a societal or technological component.

Rating: Insufficient Evidence

Rationale: The application of their background must be related to an activity (assignment or lab) that directly applies to a societal problem or a technological advance ( a general news story is not sufficient).

Component 5a: Students are provided the opportunity to engage in investigative laboratory work integrated throughout the course for a minimum of 25 percent of instructional time. 

Evaluation Guideline: The syllabus must include an explicit statement that at least 25 percent of instructional time is spent in hands-on laboratory experiences integrated throughout the course. Virtual labs do not count towards the 25 percent of instructional time.

Rating: Insufficient Evidence

Rationale: The 25% of instructional time devoted to lab must be for hands-on labs whereas the “alternative lab approach” for the 25% lab experience includes demonstrations and virtual labs. 

Component 6: The laboratory investigations used throughout the course allow students to apply the seven science practices defined in the AP Chemistry Curriculum Framework. At minimum, six of the required 16 labs are conducted in a guided-inquiry format.

Evaluation Guideline: The syllabus must list all laboratory investigations and their associated science practices. 

Evaluation Guideline: A minimum of six investigations must be identified as guided inquiry.

Rating: Insufficient Evidence

Rationale: The scientific practice(s) associated with each of the labs listed must be given individually for each lab.

– Component 4. It seems as though they want me to describe an assignment with a specific topic for connecting chemistry to the real world. I’m just not prepared to do that at this stage – who KNOWS what current event might come up during the course that I think will make for a great opportunity to fulfill this criteria? I don’t want to be tied to a specific thing, months before the course starts. It should be absolutely sufficient for me to state that I will do something, but that something is still to be determined! This is madness.

– Component 5 is simply a re-wording to say that 25% of my instructional time will be used for ‘the alternative lab approach’ that I have chosen.

– Component 6. Since I have identified my lab work to be based on the College Board lab manual (that I helped to author for goodness sake), it seems absolutely ridiculous that I should be asked to write the science practices in my audit when they are all listed in the lab manual anyway!

While we’re on the subject I have a huge problem with the Science Practices being stated in the manner that they are. It’s a complete waste of time. Any, competent AP chemistry course will incorporate the Science Practices on a daily basis anyway, and as such, stating them in the curriculum document is redundant and asking me to reproduce them in the audit is nothing more than bureaucratic busy work – I don’t even ask my kids to do that!

Amended audit (version 3), submitted on the same day (7/12) and automated email acknowledgement received. Another 60 days? I doubt it.

Tuesday July 16th 2013

I receive an email from a colleague asking me if I know that there is a ‘three strikes and you’re out‘ rule in relation to submitting your syllabus for audit approval – GULP! I did not know this and was horrified to hear it. I was under the impression that I could just re-submit over and over and over again until I had jumped through the College Board’s ridiculous hoops. This revelation was confirmed when reading this page. Now, I generally pride myself on being a thorough and meticulous professional and the fact that I did not realize this has me wondering to what extent other people are aware of this potential disaster! The information is not front and center as far as I’m concerned, and this is a potentially huge issue for some folk. Anyway, this news sent me into a tailspin since I had already submitted version #3. I was now in a very vulnerable position. As a result I decided to take some proactive steps;

1. I emailed my administration to tell them of the potential  problem (and problem it WOULD be if I could not teach AP this year, or if my course at school was not allowed to carry the AP designation).

2. I informally contacted a syllabus reviewer that I had become acquainted with, and sent him a copy of version #3. He told me that there was another ‘rule’ that said that anyone with a previously approved audit from 2007 would NOT be denied this time around! That made me feel better in one way, but even more nervous that there was another ‘rule’ that I was not aware of! Secondly, and far more worryingly, he made a comment about my syllabus that he thought might be an issue. Why did it worry me? Well, the thing that he pointed out was something that I had already corrected to the satisfaction of reviewer #2! This is simply chaotic.

3. I approached the College Board looking for advice. Two pieces of advice were offered;

a. Adopt one of the sample syllabi and,

b. Contact the chief audit reviewer.

I refused to adopt a sample syllabi since I KNEW that I would not be following somebody else’s plan. The ironic thing is that many AP teachers are simply doing that, with absolutely no intention of following the plan that they adopt – where is the sense in THAT and how does this validate the whole audit process?? I’m trying to rise above that, and the College Board is encouraging me to essentially lie to them! Nonsense.

I also heard promptly from the chief reviewer, and he said he would get back with me to discuss any issues. He never did, but on 7/31 my syllabus was mysteriously approved with no further comment from him.

Wednesday July 31st 2013

Syllabus approved. I heard via the email below as I was walking around Disney World. Irony encapsulated, I wonder if Mickey Mouse was responsible!  Take a look at the fourth paragraph in the email below – apparently I can basically do what I like, as long as I interpret any changes as ‘not eliminating any of the curricular requirements’ – Disney has NOTHING on this particular Dog & Pony Show. What a joke.

Dear Adrian Dingle:

The College Board is pleased to announce that your Chemistry course syllabus is authorized to use the AP® designation for the 2013 – 2014 academic year at The Westminster Schools. The College Board applauds and recognizes your efforts to provide your students with the academic rigor and college-level experience that is the promise of AP. I thank you for the time and effort you put into participating in the AP Course Audit.

What Does Authorization Mean?
The authorization of your syllabus is an official recognition by the College Board that it meets or exceeds the expectations colleges and universities have for your AP subject. Your syllabus was reviewed by experienced college and university faculty, who have confirmed that it outlines how you provide a college-level learning experience for your students. This authorization grants you permission to use the “AP” designation on your students’ transcripts in association with the authorized course.

Renewing Your Authorization
Once your course has been authorized, you do not need to resubmit the syllabus unless the College Board significantly revises the AP course. When the 2014 – 2015 school year becomes available, your administrator will be able to extend your authorization status through 2014 – 2015.

We understand that you may need to modify or adapt your syllabus or course plan to address the needs of your students, reflect new discoveries, and try out new approaches. You do not need to resubmit your syllabus when you modify it, as long as you are not changing your course so significantly as to eliminate from your curriculum one or more of the curricular requirements on the AP Course Audit form.

Thank you for all that you do to provide your students with a rigorous, college-level experience. The College Board appreciates your efforts to prepare students for college success.

Sincerely,

Trevor Packer
Senior Vice President
Advanced Placement Program