Online Testing Program for AP Testing Fails After Educators Call it a Waste

Representative Brad Last (Republican - Hurricane)
Representative Brad Last (Republican – Hurricane)

A bill that would have provided online resources for students taking Advanced Placement exams failed to gain the endorsement of the House Education Committee Monday.

HB 114 – Test Preparation Resources, which is sponsored by Representative Brad Last (Republican – Hurricane), would require the State Board of Education to contract with a provider, who would be selected through an request for proposal process, to furnish an online program to help prepare students for the AP exams.

“What these resources do is give a student, on their own time and in a way that I think is very attractive to the students, opportunities to practice, to remediate, and to do even better on the Advanced Placement tests,” said Last.

Representative Carol Spackman Moss (Democrat – Holladay) believes that teachers already offer plenty of help to students with test preparation and HB 114 would be harmful to that process. “If this bill passes, I would say to all the AP teachers out there ‘Sit back, relax, pack up your bags, you’re not going to have to do a lot of work.’ I taught AP English for years. My daughter’s teaches AP English. I know dozens, probably hundreds, of AP teachers. They have lots of resources for their students.”

Paul Taylor, vice president of educational sales and services at Shoomp, a digital curriculum and test prep company that is Utah’s ACT test prep provider, assured the committee that online test preparation is not meant to cancel out teachers. “We dont want to supplant the teacher. We want to supplement them.”

Sydnee Dickson, deputy superintendent of the Utah State Office of Education, has some concerns about the bill. “The college board provides a lot of free materials. We have teachers that engage in Saturday seminars. Certainly, there are always other materials that students can access. I’m wondering about the proprietary nature of College Board assessments and how a company could gain access to the rights to those materials and that would be current AP questions. I think that that might create create a problem.”

Tami Pyfer, education advisor to Governor Gary Herbert, echoed Dickson’s remarks. “These tests are already available for free. In fact, Dr. Dickson talked about our UtahFutures website, which is our counseling website. We have 28 AP tests currently on there that are free for any student anywhere in the state.”

Pyfer pointed to Utah’s high AP pass rate, which was 68 percent in 2013. “We already do very well. I guess what I’m trying to say is this is a solution looking for a problem, and an expensive solution at that. This is available for free. We believe that the philosophy of finding a product first and then buying it and trying to match it to a problem is the wrong way to go about it. We should identify what the problems are and then see if we already have resources and I believe this is one that we don’t need at this time.”

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