Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/families/education/articles/1205APchinesetest-ON.html
China to finance AP tests for U.S. high schools
The Washington Post
Dec. 5, 2003
WASHINGTON - Chinese officials announced that they will spend nearly $700,000 to
create an Advanced Placement Chinese language and culture test for U.S. high
schools. Along with an Italian AP program announced in September, this marks the
first time foreign governments have financed standardized tests for U.S.
Chinese Ambassador to the United States Yang Jiechi and College Board President
Gaston Caperton welcomed the Chinese investment as good for both countries. "Our
education system needs to respond to an increasingly interconnected global
economy and to the growing cultural diversity in the United States," Caperton
But critics of the increased emphasis on standardized tests in U.S. schools said
they feared the New York City-based College Board, a nonprofit organization that
owns the popular AP and SAT tests, was selling influence in American classrooms
"What is the Chinese or Italian government buying for their sponsorship?" asked
Bob Schaeffer, public education director for the National Center for Fair & Open
Testing (FAIRTEST). "Will they be able to specify or influence the content of
the exams which is, in turn, designed to drive the AP course curriculum? Can
they, for example, urge the inclusion of reading passages from the 'Little Red
In an interview, Caperton, a former governor of West Virginia, rejected such
concerns as "foolish." He said, "The reason that we are doing this is, one, we
think languages are becoming increasingly important for students to know and,
number two, is to really give deeper understanding of other cultures which we
think in this world is critical to understanding and better world relations."
The $1.37 million cost of developing the equivalent of a college-level third
year course and exam in Chinese for high school students will be split equally
between the Chinese government grant and private foundations, Caperton said. The
Italian government announced in September that it will spend $300,000, with an
additional $200,000 from charitable groups and foundations, for an AP Italian
Language and Culture course and exam. The Italian program is cheaper because the
language, for American students, is not as difficult as China's tonal spoken
language and ideographic written language.
The two new courses and tests would be added to the 34 courses and exams in 19
subject areas now covered by AP, which gives high schoolers a chance to prepare
for college academic work, and if they score high enough, get college credit.
The program has been growing rapidly, with 1.7 million AP exams given to nearly
a million high school students last May, and some educators predict it will
eventually supplant the SAT and the ACT as the country's most important tests.
AP exams are usually three hours long and are written and scored by outside
The College Board said 500 high schools have so far indicated they wish to
participate in the first AP Italian courses, scheduled for the fall of 2005 with
the first exams in May 2006. The Chinese course will not be ready until the fall
of 2006, with the first tests in May 2007, the College Board said.
The majority of students in China study English, but only 50,000 American
students study Chinese, a College Board statement said. It contrasted that small
number learning a language spoken by 1.5 billion people with the 1 million
American students who study French, spoken by only 70 million people.
Perry Link, professor of Chinese at Princeton University, said an AP course and
test might help raise the low level of Chinese instruction in American high
schools, particularly if the exam includes a section recording the student
speaking the language, as AP exams in other languages do.
He said many ethnic Chinese instructors do not believe that Americans can learn
the four tones that are essential to comprehensible Chinese speech, and thus do
not bother to teach them. "But it is quite possible to teach Americans to speak
properly," he said.
Yang, in welcoming the new course, said "people-to-people contact between China
and the United States is important for increasing mutual understanding,
fostering friendship, and expanding bilateral relations. ... The bridge of
understanding and friendship cannot be built without language." He noted that
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will soon be visiting Washington.
Schaeffer called the new tests part of "the never-ending commercialization of
education." He said, "I wonder if we can ask the College Board to make the
contracts with the two governments public so that educators, journalists and
kibitzers can see what is being bought and sold and at what prices."