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My name is Brian Donlon and I am a teacher and the Elected Faculty Representative at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, MD. I believe the leadership of Richard Montgomery H.S. is engaging in a practice that is deceptive to students, parents, faculty, colleges/universities, the College Board, and IB/MYP officials. Also, this deceptive practice will most likely result in the school improving its score on the Washington Post/Newsweek annual Challenge Index. MCPS and Richard Montgomery High School take great pride in delivering outstanding Advanced Placement courses that provide students with great rigor. Current practices at Richard Montgomery High School undermine the MCPS commitment to the Advanced Placement program and overall rigor.
The school is awarding students credit (on their report cards/transcripts) for classes being Advanced Placement when theses classes in no way meet the AP criteria as set by the College Board. These classes being described as AP U.S. History do not follow the AP curriculum (they start in 1865 as opposed to 1492), do not use an AP approved textbook, do not write AP style essays, and do not have a teacher who has submitted an AP course audit that has been approved. The master schedule handed out to teachers lists the classes as MYP U.S. History, but student schedules and report cards/transcripts list the classes as AP U.S. History. About 60-70 students are being given AP credit for a class that in no way meets AP standards. This is an obvious attempt by the school leadership to mislead and misdirect attention from an unethical and dishonest practice.
There are true AP U.S. History classes at Richard Montgomery High School that teach the AP curriculum, use an approved AP textbook, and have trained teachers who have been approved through the AP audit process. The students in these legitimate AP U.S. History classes took a semester exam based on released AP tests. It is challenging and meant to be a preview of the test they will take in May. The fake AP U.S. History classes took a MCPS constructed semester final that is significantly easier than the exam taken by the true AP classes. The County exam is the same exam taken by non-AP U.S. History classes (regular and honors).
I believe the actions by the Richard Montgomery leadership are misleading to colleges and universities about the rigor of courses taken by students. It undermines the integrity of Richard Montgomery as an educational institution. Listing the course as Advanced Placement on a report card communicates to parents that it is worth the financial investment to have their sons and daughters take the AP exam in May. The teachers of these fake AP courses have told the students that even though their course started in 1865 they would be given
review materials because they learned the pre-1865 content in middle school. About 190-200 students have taken a legitimate AP U.S. History course and sat for the test over the last several years. An additional 60-70 students sitting for the test would certainly raise Richard Montgomery's score on the annual Challenge Index. If schools can manipulate the names of their courses this easily it undermines the validity of the Challenge Index and Richard Montgomery/ MCPS standing on this measure administered by the Washington Post. Also, it communicates to colleges and universities that students took a more rigorous program than they actually did.
When the College Board began the requirement of having individual teachers submit AP audits, the stated purpose was to ensure some level of consistency in course expectations and rigor across the nation. Did the College Board ever envision that an individual school would demonstrate such different levels of rigor for the same listed course? I called the College Board to ask for their guidance and assistance on this matter. They responded that they were not an enforcement organization. The College Board encouraged me to work with my local and state school boards and education departments. I find this hypocritical since they will collect close to $90 for each student who takes the AP test. An intermediary met with MCPS central office officials (cluster community superintendent and performance director) on December 16 to inform them of the situation and provide documentation. To the best of my knowledge MCPS has not investigated or pursued the issue in any serious manner. No students/ teachers were interviewed. The second semester began on January 24. Richard Montgomery H.S. is running the same model for the second semester. Why did Richard Montgomery H.S. go down this path? As part of its IB magnet program Richard Montgomery also has an MYP program. The MYP program is under review this year. MYP/IB officials made a site visit in late February. Last spring less than twenty students signed up for MYP U.S. History. Enrollment for AP U.S. History was up by about 60-70 students. It seems as if parents and students thought their transcripts would look better if they had an AP course as opposed to an MYP course. School leadership became concerned that not having MYP courses for an MYP review and site visit would be problematic. So they hatched this scheme to call the course MYP U.S. History on certain documents, but list the course as AP U.S. History on report cards/transcripts (even though the course does not teach AP curriculum or meet all other criteria as established by the College Board). So Richard Montgomery leadership is not only being dishonest with students, parents, faculty, colleges/universities, followers of the Challenge Index, but also MYP/IB officials. I had a student in my first semester Honors U.S. History course with an
interesting story. She started the school year in a true AP U.S. History course. She experienced difficulty and requested that she be moved to an honors section. She did well in my class the rest of the semester. When second semester began she looked at her schedule that listed AP U.S. History. She went to her counselor and requested she be in Honors U.S. History since she had great difficulty in AP. Her counselor told her it, “Don’t worry it will be fine.” She expressed concerns about how she could return to a class with a different curriculum after leaving AP U.S. History in late September. She reports that the counselor told her, “It will be fine. It really isn’t a real AP course.” So a student who left an AP U.S. History course in September will still get credit on her report card/transcript for an AP course second semester. I am an eighteen-year veteran of MCPS. I am a National Board Certified Teacher who has taught AP courses for over a decade. I have served the College Board as an AP U.S. History grader. The conduct of Richard Montgomery High School officials in regards to this matter is dishonest and unethical on multiple levels. I request the following remedies; 1. The report cards/transcripts of the students in these classes be changed from Advanced Placement U.S. History to MYP U.S. History. Based on the content covered in the course and the complete lack of the course meeting other AP criteria, this is consistent with the listed MCPS course descriptions. 2. Richard Montgomery High School and/or MCPS refund/reimburse the students/parents who paid to take the AP U.S. History test but did not receive adequate instruction and preparation that the course title promises.
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