Teachers in at least one Philadelphia high school say they were called into a meeting last week and told that funding has been cut for Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes, two types of honors programs that, with the payment of costly exam fees, can enable students to receive college credits.
Then, they say, they were told not to tell the students.
Philadelphia School District spokesperson Fernando Gallard confirmed Tuesday that there is no funding for the fee schools must pay to participate in IB, for the required IB-teacher training or for test fees. Nor is there funding for AP tests or training. “The good news is the IB teachers are still in the IB programs, so the students are still taking IB courses. The bad news is that they are taking IB courses that are not being credited to them yet, because we are not able to afford the school fee,” he says. Gallard says restoring those funds is important to the District. “That’s why we are continuing to push … for more funding out of the negotiating table. Whatever we are able to save out of the negotiations with our unions, we are able to use to pay for things like this.”
The cuts extend to Philly’s esteemed magnet schools. The IB coordinator at one such school tells us, “Teachers have been rostered to teach these classes, but have not been trained.”
“These are the programs that, as a public school, still make us an attractive place for parents and students — college-preparatory, rigorous curricula,” says another teacher, who like others asked to remain anonymous because he was told not to speak about the matter. He says the school spends about $50,000 per year on training and fees for IB programs and exams, and also covers the cost of hundreds of student AP exams. “Students need to be registered by November [for IB or] … they will not be able to take the exams. And we’ve been told not to say anything to any-body yet — but time’s a-ticking, and it’s not fair to these students.”
An AP and IB teacher at another magnet high school says her students in the past have used the courses to get into better colleges, earn scholarships and skip entire semesters of (pricey) college coursework. “It’s their chance to compete with kids at premier suburban public and private schools for the college process,” she says. Shifting the funding burden onto kids and their parents is not an option, she says. “If schools in Philadelphia stop offering AP and IB, we’re letting kids down.”
Parts of this story were originally reported on our Naked City blog.
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