Taking the Fight to Harvard

A Harvard School of Education article decries the misuse of standardized testing, but ignores the fact that Harvard is a prime motivator of the AP exam craze.

I’d like to call the an article published by the Harvard Graduate School of Education (GSE) entitled “When Testing Takes Over” to your attention.  It is very well-written and makes excellent points.

Unfortunately, this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black in some respects, so I sent the following e-mail to the Harvard GSE this morning (11/6/2017):

Dear Dr. Walsh:
I do not use Facebook so I could not comment on your standardized testing article directly.
I am in complete agreement with the points that you make in the article, but would like to note an omission which I would hope you would address since this is an area where Harvard and Yale have outsized influence:  AP testing.
AP testing in my opinion has become a money-making opportunity for the College Board and helps the Ivy League sort out the thousands of applications that they receive, but in my experience as a former research scientist, corporate manager, teacher, and (in retirement) private math/science tutor, it does a lot of harm to children who are not at the very top.
For example, despite the fact that the AP Physics 1 exam requires a score of only *36%* to get a 3, in the recent past about 61% of the test takers did not meet this very low bar!!!  The math and physics curricula covers far too much material far too quickly, and many test problems are designed to trap students who are not extremely careful.  Please see my blog articles:
This makes the test excellent vehicles for “spreading out the curve” and allowing top schools to see through high school grade inflation, but leads to a rushed, sub-par, and off-putting “teaching to the test” educational experience for many students.
Harvard, Yale and the other top schools could go a long way towards fixing this problem if, e.g., they agreed to a cap on the number of AP classes that applicants are allowed to take each year.
You might have other and better ideas on how to address this issue which I would be delighted to hear.
Dr. David Kristofferson
Admittedly, capping the number of AP courses that a student can take each semester is probably not going to be implemented.  Too many parents of “high-achieving” students will complain, and not enough parents from the “second tier” will speak up.  My hope is that someone can come up with a creative way out of this morass.

Author: David Kristofferson

Retired Ph.D. scientist, teacher (after retiring from industry, taught in private and public high schools and then worked a decade in my own private tutoring business), bioinformatician (managed both the NIH-funded GenBank National Nucleic Acid Sequence Databank and the BIONET National Computer Resource for Molecular Biology), IT director at Eos and Raven Biotechnologies, software product manager, AAAS Fellow, avid cyclist, and backpacker!

2 thoughts on “Taking the Fight to Harvard”

  1. I commend you for taking this Action. I would be very interested to hear if, when and what he responds.


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