CollegeBoard emails high school counselors announcing last-minute policy changes.

ThinquePrep rhetorical analysis essay in response to email.

May 17, 2020

 

Dear Colleague,

 

Today we reached the midway point of the two-week primary administration. We couldn't be more proud of the hundreds of thousands of students who showed up for the opportunity to claim the college credit they worked for all year, despite widespread school closures.

 

Students have taken nearly 2.2 million AP® Exams, across 15 courses. After the first week of testing, our data show the vast majority of students successfully completed their exams.

 

However, some students have encountered challenges submitting their responses, and we've been listening closely to each student, parent, or educator who reports a problem.

 

Beginning Monday, May 18, we're changing processes to address some of these concerns. To help support your students during testing, please share the information below with them.

 

SUBMITTING EXAM RESPONSES

We share the deep disappointment of students who were unable to submit responses.

•Beginning Monday, May 18, and continuing through the makeup window, there will be a backup email submission process for browser-based exams.

•This option will only be available for students who were not able to submit in the standard process—and they must then email their responses immediately following their exam.

•These students will see instructions about how to email their response on the page that says, "We Did Not Receive Your Response."The email address that appears on this page will be unique to each student.

•Any student testing between May 18–22 who can't successfully upload their response through the exam platform or send it to us by email, will need to request a makeup exam.

•To protect the security and validity of exams, we're unable to accept submissions from students who tested May 11–15. However, these students can feel confident that the email option will be in place for them during the makeup exams.

•Email submissions will not be available for the World Language exams.

SETTING UP YOUR STUDENTS FOR SUCCESS

Given the wide variety of devices, browsers, and connectivity solutions students have access to, we're unable to prevent every possible local error from occurring during the exam. In advance of the administration, we created a testing guide, Exam demo, and test day checklist to help students avoid potential issues. It's important that students review this information and know to:

•Locate their e-ticket, which is emailed two days before each exam

•Use a recommended browser, update it to the latest version, and disable plugins

•Keep an eye on the time and begin their submission at the 5-minute mark

 

Additional tips to help your students succeed are available here.

 

Students taking World Language and Culture exams, which begin on Monday, May 18, must:

•Download the free AP World Languages Exam App (WLEA)

•Set their device to “Do Not Disturb”

•Check to ensure they have enough storage on their device World Language students should also watch the exam walk-through video, and check our website for more guidance.

 

Thank you for all you continue to do to support your students during this challenging time.

 

With gratitude,

Advanced Placement Program

On Sunday, May 17, 2020 an email appeared that caught its recipient by surprise. Whereas most emails received on a weekend often remain unaddressed, this one letter caused a commotion. CollegeBoard (CB) had announced some changes to exam administration that would take place exactly halfway through its worldwide AP administration. For weeks prior, CB Trevor Packer, and dinosauce313 had been on the blunt end of criticism for their hastily redesigned AP exam policies. Through a combination of lawyerly crafted rhetoric techniques -- such extremely specific word choice, and selective use of data -- CB attempts to assuage its readers by addressing their concerns while simultaneously deflecting any possibility of blame.

 

The email itself starts with a bit of fanfare. “Today we reached the midway point of the two-week primary administration.” Such deliberate word choice evokes the beginning of many presidential addresses or harken back to similarly grandiose wartime addresses or breaking news reports. But, alas, this is not a serious situation, it is a happy one! CB is proud of its myriad who participate in this program. They utilize optimistic diction like “showed up” and “claim the college credit” to paint an image of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, eager young academics who are destined for bigger and greater things. Truly, this use of diction is inspired because saying that these students rolled out of bed to take a stressful, condensed exam they aren’t even sure they can submit -- let alone pass -- just doesn’t have the same ring to it. CB knows their audience. They specifically strike of tone intentional positivity the clearly attempts to instill a feeling of warm fuzzies into its potentially stressed-out reader.

 

In its next paragraph, CB gets straight to business by dropping a yuge number. 2.2 million: the number of AP Exams taken. This staggering number is enough to make its reader’s head spin as it contains far more zeroes than their annual salary. CB, who clearly had the capacity to count its 2.2 million administered exams, conveniently goes on to state that a “vast majority of students successfully completed their exams.” Notice the sudden shift of their attempt at providing data. Instead of providing an exact data point, CB leaves us with the phrase vast majority. Is this a possible attempt to distract the reader, to veil a number that they do not want their reader to know? I mean, vast sounds so… large… and big… and… vast. But in reality, the phrase “vast majority” could swing anywhere from 60%-99% depending on whom you ask. The fact that they followed up such a definitive number with such a vague estimation shows that CB clearly wants the reader to continue wallowing in the celebratory tone established in the first two lines. I behooved CB, who clearly knows the mounting frustration of its reader, to start with aggressively positive statements.

 

But then, of course, CB finally starts to delve into the real issue with an ominous “however” – “some students have encountered challenges.” Notice again here the use of ambiguous wording as to somehow deflect the attention from the potential hundreds (or hundreds of thousands) of students that they may be referencing. No, the emphasis should be placed on the fact that they are “listening closely.” However, on a deeper level, one cannot ignore the intention choice of “listening” and omission of its counterpart “responding”. In crafting this letter to engender sympathy, a hasty reader may miss the unstated message. As such, CB may successfully achieve its purpose of assuaging its reader will simultaneously deflecting blame. They conveniently juxtaposed to this is the inclusion of the series of whom they’ve been listening to -- each student, parent, or educator who reports a problem. While this simple list of those listen to seems comforting, it also belies a darker underbelly. CB can attest to “listening” because their call centers are understaffed, and many callers are hanging up before they can speak to live representative. CB can attest to “listening” because any other word would be a patent falsehood. CB can attest to “listening” because business hours occur when many frazzled European and Asian students are asleep and cannot call to complain. Granted, they have undertaken the Herculean task of administering 2.2 million AP® exams, so one can forgive their interesting verb choice. Maybe “listening” was all they could do.

 

Shortly after, CB gets down to business by giving listing out a variety of steps they want their reader to take in. All the while, however, CB is careful with its word choice. They preface the list with “We share the deep disappointment of students who were unable to submit responses.” Compare this phrase with “we share students’ disappointment in our messed up submission process.” This slight shift in language is all it takes to make sure avoid even the slightest hint of culpability. At the end of the list they make sure to reiterate that “unable to prevent every possible local error from occurring during the exam.” The choice of absolute language both makes clear that there is no responsibility on CB’s part, but also shifts the onus onto the reader. The tone suddenly because a bit more urgent now and truly does stir up a bit of concern. Now, the reader is directed to pay more attention, as this list seemingly has much more important contact. Content that ostensibly can make a difference (even though it may not have the past week). But, then again, CB does understand their secondary audience – high school student. It’s clear that the inclusion of this list -- a repetition of statements they’ve been broadcasting for months -- bears repeating because at least the primary reader, over-stressed high school counselors, can nag their lovingly forgetful students who will be emailing and texting them 5 minutes before their exam.

 

And, of course, one cannot end an empathetic email without a kind sendoff to remind the reader that CB cares. “With gratitude, Advanced Placement Program.” The lack of inclusion of name makes very clear that the “Dear Colleague” addressee of this leader that there is no recourse or opportunity to respond for the reader. While warm and fuzzy, it also gives makes clear that if there are any issues, then the reader can kindly yell profanities into their pillow instead of responding to a real live person. The end of this letter gives a gentle reminder that while CB is a non-profit organization, they are, at the end of the day, still a billion-dollar educational monopoly.

Graduation Hat Throw

Thankyou

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