It’s after 10 p.m. on Monday night and I’ve just put my phone down to take a breather. I have been on the phone for the past three hours talking to students and their parent about their AP Spanish Language and Culture test which is scheduled for this Friday at 2 p.m.
I am working my way through a list of roughly 90 students who have registered, paid for and endured a year’s worth of essay writing, text analysis, cultural comparison, listening comprehension, presentation practice and professional email writing in preparation for the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam. Last Thursday, I sent out a “please respond” email to all of my AP Spanish students and their parents with recent College Board AP test updates.
As of Monday evening, I had received a total of 20 responses.
The lack of email response was alarming and uncharacteristic of their academic nature that I observed every day in class from August through mid-March. All of my AP students this year were incredible and eager to learn each and every day.
As I have been calling students from my living room couch for the past week, some have disconnected numbers, many calls go straight to voicemail, and on occasion a ring gets answered with a boisterous “Bueno” as many Spanish- speakers are accustomed to answering the phone.
“Hola, buenas noches,” I say as I state that I am calling to verify that your student knows where, when, and how to take the AP test this Friday.
The College Board has generously modified their AP tests due to COVID-19, but unfortunately has thrown a wrench into the equation for some, and I am afraid that our underrepresented students are going to be placed at the greatest disadvantage.
Students must download an app to take the AP test with an iPhone or Android device which requires a newer model phone. Students have contacted me with incompatible or international devices inadequate for test day. Our school was able to provide each of our students in need with a Chromebook since the school dismissal, but unfortunately, students can’t take the AP test from a Chromebook and we don’t have any updated iOS devices at our school or district.
Better yet, when our AP coordinator contacted College Board, their response was simple, “Oh yeah, that will be a problem.”
As I have spoken with students over the phone, I talked to many who were completely unaware of the recent changes to the AP test despite my plethora of email updates over the last two months. But I honestly can’t blame them. Students are working full-time jobs, bearing the load of childcare, pulling homework all-nighters in a desperate sprint to save their fourth-quarter grades and coping with COVID-positive family members. The last thing they are thinking about is finding their e-ticket from the College Board buried deep in their inbox which grants them access to Friday’s AP test.
Educational equity has been my primary goal at Taylorsville High School over the course of my career, striving to provide academically rigorous opportunities for all students including many from historically underrepresented backgrounds. With the support of my administration, we’ve grown the AP Spanish program from the ground up to one of Utah’s most impressive programs with recording breaking enrollment numbers and AP pass rates.
By promoting AP Spanish among all students including heritage, native and second language learners, an international and inclusive environment is fostered where students can be themselves, embrace cultural differences and dive head-first into an academically rigorous advanced placement curriculum. Many students take this course as their first AP class and it is my vision that it will serve as a gateway to a broader AP trajectory for each student.
The whole goal of educational equity, is to help kids towards a better future and a solid chance at high school graduation and college success. Due to the unfortunate situation at hand and many unforeseen barriers, any student that misses the AP test forfeits the chance to show their hard-earned proficiency, well-deserved college credits, and regrettably gets put yet another step behind the rest us on the road towards progress.
Ryan Wells, Salt Lake City, teaches Spanish at Taylorsville High School and was named Granite School District Teacher of the Year 2020.