Dear David: It’s Time You Listened
(Originally posted at The Counseling Geek)
Mr. Coleman et al – as I pen this letter of frustration, it is the week before the annual two weeks of AP Exams. So yes – my frustrations are high already. But this has been long coming. The amount of time that I am required to spend as a school counselor is absurd to fulfill the needs and expectations of your massive organization. I, personally and professionally, am over it. I would like to point out several things and demand that several key things start to change immediately.
1. College Board is too big.
Your organization has turned into a monstrosity that has zero connection to what it is like to work within the education sector today. Decisions are made and policies set in place that make it crystal clear that the decision making bodies have spent little to no time actually working within a school. When I have to do anything related to College Board, AP, SAT, PSAT, etc. – it feels that we are the peons and you are the King. We are here to serve you – with no regard to the impact it has on our days, lives, students, time, energy or *GASP* being able to actually do our jobs.
We get emails, mailings, attend conferences that all spout all the great support that College Board is creating, providing and developing to “support the educators and students”, but have they ever really listened to the needs of their customers (the schools and students)? Not nearly enough.
2. You treat us like we are your employees (indentured servants).
Without fail – College Board consistently treats school counselors, teachers, staff and other adults like we are your own employee. You expect us to organize exams, collect funds, proctor exams, return exams, follow stringent (read: ridiculous) security requirements, proctor exams on weekends or our own time, etc. It is the time that College Board realizes it’s (correct) place in the education eco-system and stops acting like it owns all those it interacts with and can bully them into doing the things it wants. Don’t have enough space for your exams? Find it or your exams are invalid. Don’t want to come in on a weekend for a 2 day SAT school site exam? Better find someone who will or we may not let you participate in College Board programs any longer. Need to test at a central location (our school district office) that happens to be about an hour drive each way? Tough – the AP Coordinator will need to drive the day’s exams to and from the site to the test location because it cannot spend the night there (which would add up to over 10 hours simply in the car alone)…it goes on and on.
The honorarium/rebate feels like a slap in the face and I am convinced it is there so you can bury your heads in the sand and say that we did get compensated so you can tell us what to do. False. Almost nobody can actually accept the honorarium because the duties fall during our workday. And don’t get me started on the test proctoring rates for those dreaded weekend exams.
3. You are the richest “non-profit” I’ve ever seen.
Over the past 7 years of records – you have received profits of over $342,000,000 on the backs of educators and students. I am not going to re-write the facts – if you want to read the copious (and cited) details on how bad it really is – check out this article from Nonpartisan Education Review. Prepare to be disgusted.
It’s time to call it what it is – you are a company focused on your bottom line and not much more. Stop painting the pig.
4. You hassle educators for helping kids.
Proof to some of the above is the amount of time you spend making sure that no school gets too many fee waivers. Sheesh! You should be handing out fee waivers (and trusting that we are honest professionals, not backroom waiver dealers) like Oprah hands out goodies. I am sure most school counselors have experienced the push back when you have given out more fee waivers than in prior years and try to order more – you get the shakedown.
So what? What do we need?
1. Start running your own tests – start to finish.
Nearly every other non-state agency test is done at a formalized, staffed and non-school run testing center. You want each kid to be tested in their own room (which is where it seems we will be in a few years time)? Great – have the test center do it. Need kids to wear a pirate patch on one eye during the AP Spanish Language reading writing section so nobody cheats? Let your staff set that up and make sure it is enforced. I am tired of doing your dirty work. Setup regional tests centers – here’s a bright idea – use that $342 mil to have test coordinators come to each school and bring proctors with them! Maybe partner with the local military recruitment centers – they are always game to proctor some exams. You are big enough to deal with your own system. Start doing it. The education system is taxed enough as it is having to take care of every other social need in addition to trying to educate our future generations.
2. Stop taking me away from my job and time with my students.
I have already spent over 20 hours this year simply getting through the PSAT exams alone and we haven’t even gotten into AP exams. I am lucky too – in that, I have advocated and have a district with means to support me not even needing to proctor every exam (I used to when I started so tack on another 30 hours easy). By the end of the year – with me proctoring a few exams where we cannot find subs – I will have spent a good 40 hours minimum on running your exams for you.
David – when you came to the ASCA Leadership Development Institute a few years back – it was painful to watch and listen to. You said things you thought we would want to hear – but it was all shameless self-promotion. I cannot wait until colleges and high schools get brave enough to start bucking the system of standardized exams and the fluff that comes with it. We are starting to see more of it – but it cannot happen soon enough. Let me get back to why I am in my school in the first place – and that is not organizing exams.
3. Stop spending so much money, time and focus on creating the flashy swag and sites.
Don’t get me wrong – I am all for swag, great user-friendly websites, and more. But I do not even want to know the budget spent on all the fluff you send out, pockets you pad and lobbying you do (likely not with students at the focus). Counselors would rather have more fee waivers, less placed on our plates by you, and useful tools than mousepads, fancy magnets, posters, travel honoraria (yes – they paid ASCA School Counselors of the Year recipients money), conference sponsorship (even coming from someone who works with CASC), and other junk. You need to get with reality – fund transportation to Saturday exams, help more with supporting locations that will meet your requirements and proctors, help underserved populations more than you do now, and so much more.
David – if it is not clear – I am not your or College Board’s biggest fan. I think there is potential to do good (and you are not all bad) – but boy is it currently heading in the wrong direction. I am sure you won’t read this and if you did – would likely be able to convince yourself that it is somehow a praise article. Anywho – there is a pint of ice cream waiting for me to drown my testing frustrations in.
PS – you can expect an invoice from me for my time and travel when having to transport these tests to and fro over the next few weeks based on the absolutely insane requirements.
PPS – your support agents sound like robots spouting off their agent ID’s (can anyone even write them down that fast?).
An additional comment:
I Just got done boxing up the first AP split shipment from week one alone and I’ve already “donated” 47 free hours organizing, proctoring (limitedly) and coordinating AP exams in just the month of May…with another week (plus late exams) to go…
Did you know – with an average of 80 hours per AP window that the coordinator will need to spend to run these exams – at a school counselor average hourly salary of $20/hour at the 22,169 schools offering AP programs – College Board abuses and gets $35,470,000 worth of labor for free.
Is it a coincidence the the number happens to be essentially College Board’s annual profit? Stop profiting on the backs of school counselors and educators.