Had an encouraging conversation at College Board this morning about the potential for a new AP assessment system that would allow several testing times each year (eventually many times or anytime) and reduced reliance on the end of course assessment but considering a ‘book of work’ during the course taking period.

The reason this would be a breakthrough is that this country could double the number of AP courses taken by expanding online offerings.  Districts could double the number of courses offered, ensure instructional quality, and reduce costs by moving all AP online (or a blend of online and onsite).  This would best be facilitated by 1) eliminating seat time requirements, 2) adding flexibility to certification requirements, and 3) making it easier to take the test when a student is ready.

Most teachers already incorporate a variety of factors into a student’s grade: homework, quizzes, projects, and a final exam. College Board has already identified core knowledge and skills for each course; these could be turned into ‘merit badges’ that I’ve been writing about in this  blog and others.  By creating competency bundles around core knowledge/skills, CB could create a marketplace for assessment, or even better content-embedded assessment, that would certify competence.  A string of these merit badges could offload the summative assessment thus making it easier to offer a slighly lower stakes exam on demand.

The consortia of states lead by Maine and West Virginia working on comprehensive approach to assessment could pick this idea up and run with it.  The opportunity to expand access to rigor and quality is too good to pass up.

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Tom Vander Ark is author of Difference Making at the Heart of Learning, The Power of Place, Better Together, Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and Learn Capital and serves on the boards of Education Board Partners, 4.0 Schools, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, Mastery Transcript Consortium and eduInnovation. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.


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