Preliminary predicament

College Board to make schools pay for Pre-AP curriculum beginning in 2021

Story by Joseph Rodgers, editor in chief

A possible change is underway for TISD curriculum after the College Board announced that it would certify certain schools to be Preliminary Advanced Placement, or Pre-AP, schools. These schools would be allowed to offer certain courses with the Pre-AP designation. However, the College Board would charge schools upfront for the curriculum.

All schools that are not certified and have Pre-AP designated classes may have to change the name of the classes or become certified by the 2020-2021 school year. TISD is currently considering either pursuing a Pre-AP certification or changing the name Pre-AP to honors but maintain the same course weight and academic rigor.

“The College Board has released an application process in becoming a Pre-AP certified school,” Lauren Pilgreen, Assistant Principal for the Ross Perot STEM Academy, said. “There are a very small number of schools currently in the nation that are Pre-AP schools. Because of that, if the district decided to change the name of the classes, they would probably just refer to the classes as honors and they would carry the same course weight as Pre-AP classes carry now.”

TISD currently pays nothing for the Pre-AP designation, but after the new rule, the school district will pay for Pre-AP coursework on a basis of per student, meaning that school districts with high student populations will pay the most to receive this advanced program.

“My question is, ‘What can the College Board offer me?’” Pilgreen said. “I have not seen any example curriculum, but I am curious to see what they will offer us for $20,000 that is better than what we already have. I may have to eat my words on that, but at this point, I do not know.”

The school size tiers include 0-400 students, 401-1500 students and 1500+ students with prices per Pre-AP course of $1200, $3200 and $5200, respectively, assuming that a school would offer four or more Pre-AP classes. Texas High currently offers 22 Pre-AP courses, but through the rule change, Texas High could only offer select courses: Pre-AP English 1, Pre-AP Algebra 1, Pre-AP World History, Pre-AP World Geography and Pre-AP Biology. Additionally, for no fee, Pre-AP Theater, Pre-AP Dance, Pre-AP Visual Art and Pre-AP Music would be offered. All other current Pre-AP courses not included in the College Board’s list would still have to undergo the designation change.

“I’m sure if the district decided to become certified that we would offer all of the courses available,” Pilgreen said. “The arts classes are probably free with the purchase of the core classes. But really, we can call [the course] whatever [we] want as long as it still has the same weight and we make sure students understand that the class would lead to an AP course.”

According to CollegeBoard.com, the price calculator indicates that TISD would pay $20,800 per year, assuming that the district does not receive any special discounts.

Although $20,000 may not seem like a lot coming from our district’s budget, it is a huge increase from paying absolutely nothing.”

— Bettie Stark

“Although $20,000 may not seem like a lot coming from our district’s budget, it is a huge increase from paying absolutely nothing,” Bettie Stark, Associate Principal for College & Career Readiness, said.

According to Pilgreen, Texas High’s curriculum has been successful due to many practices that TISD already requires, such as close collaboration between Pre-AP and AP teachers, causing many of the administration to think that the designation would not greatly benefit TISD.

“We send our Pre-AP teachers to AP training anyways so they get the same professional development that our AP teachers are getting,” Pilgreen said. “Our Pre-AP teachers also already consult their professional learning communities in their department meetings with AP teachers to make sure they are doing a good job conveying to the students what they need to know before going up to the next level.”

While TISD has yet to make a formal decision on the matter, Stark has her own speculation regarding what the school board will decide.

“I believe that TISD will decide to not become certified,” Stark said. “We believe that we have a strong curriculum that prepares students well for college, so we have no need to adopt the College Board’s curriculum for Pre-AP courses.”