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Thread: An open letter to APA/AICP

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    An open letter to APA/AICP

    Open Letter Regarding the Spring, 2008 AICP Testing Cycle

    Mr. Billingsley,

    I am writing to you in your capacity as President of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). I took the Comprehensive Planning Exam (CPE) this Spring. I did not look forward to this examination, nor do I believe that an AICP certification is at all indicative of abilities as a planner, nor do I believe that all AICP
    members conduct themselves in a professional manner. Nonetheless, my chosen profession places a premium on such certifications, and I felt that I am young enough that the certification could be beneficial to me as I go forth with my career.

    As I am sure that you are aware, typically the AICP exam lets you know immediately afterwards whether or not you passed. This practice has been in place since the tests began to be administered electronically. However, this particular testing cycle, us fortunate ones will not find out our results in a timely fashion. We have to wait until "August", for an undetermined date, due to new questions being added to the exam (a practice which I, nor any other planner, should oppose). For this honor, of being AICP's guinea pigs, we were made to take a longer exam, have to expend more time studying and wait up to four months to know the result of our exams.

    There is no known benefit to this situation for the test takers, who each paid up to $450 for this honor, the same cost as previous members who were able to know the results immediately afterwards. There is, however, a tangible and significant cost to this situation to the test takers.

    A primary motivation in taking the exam is higher salaries or more income. For those of us that are employees, it may mean a step up in pay. For those of us that are proprietors, it may mean increased consulting opportunities. The salary difference noted in the most recent AICP salary survey was $18,000 annually between those with AICP certification and those without. Perhaps there is some delay in these opportunities, and perhaps some of this is due to experience, as
    indicated on the salary survey, but all of those qualified to sit for the exam have more experience than an entry-level planner, and are certainly due for some increased income due to certification.

    Using a very simple calculation, this delay costs the test takers, those that financed the exam, who will be the future dues-paying members of the AICP, up to $6,000 each in potential lost wages (and, at approximately 600 applicants, up to maybe $2,400,000 in total lost wages) or income; for the newest AICP members, those in need of the increased income the most! All this PLUS if we pass, we get a pro-rated bill for that time we were AICP members but not able to use the designation for possible additional income or wages!

    I am sure that this fact has not escaped you prior to receiving this letter. We were offered no rebates, no remorse, nothing to indicate that the AICP acknowledges this large amount of possible lost income to its constituents. Perhaps a gesture of good will would be to offer a year of free membership to those who have passed, and free registration for a subsequent to those who did not pass.

    I will still be proud to call myself an AICP member if I have passed, and will adhere to all codes and conduct rules fully, just as I am proud to be an American in spite of some situations that my government has gotten themselves into which I disagree with. I just wish that an organization that I wish to be a part of would do better by its own future constituents than has been done up to this point.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian tsc's avatar
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    When I took the test...I had to wait months. I don't see a real issue with this, because I think they should evaluate the results of the test before seeing if you passed or failed. I think they should evaluate questions. I was about 10 years ago, but I think I had to wait 6 months. I think you make some very good points in the letter though about other issues.

    I also don't think that the difference of AICP impacts your salary so much if you don't have at least 10-15 years experience.
    "Yeehaw!" is not a foreign policy

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  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    While I understand your concern about AICP, I find this letter extremely unprofessional and insulting to AICP.

    #1. YOU DONT HAVE YOUR CERTIFICATION YET!!!!! Do you really want to put your completed test on the line? You piss off the wrong person, and they can make hell for you. Without your certification yet, you don't have two legs to stand on.

    #2. You basically said the exam is pointless, that some (if not all) AICP do not conduct themselves in a professional manner (how many do you know?), but you HAVE to take the exam in order to get ahead (you don't have to do anything). You victimize all test takers as AICP guinea pigs yet you have the audacity to ask for a hand out (a free year of membership).

    #3. You did a crappy fiscal impact analysis using the AICP Salary Survey, which is NOT a good representative of salaries to begin with. I know for a fact that I won't get anything more than a COLA after I EARN my AICP (and I will have to look for jobs elsewhere). If you want to use facts and figures, find something better.

    #4. Yes, you are part of the first testing cycle that has to be inconvenienced by a 4 month waiting period for test results. Shrug it off, dude. Yes, you probably have to study a long time to take the exam. I myself am not looking to spending part of the summer and most of the fall studying either, but I do what have to do. AICP IS NOT A HAND OUT!!!!

    Bottom line, this letter is nothing but a whiney immature complaint of self-entitlement. For someone who prepared hard for the AICP exam, I would expect a much higher degree of professionalism and tact. If I were the recipient of this letter, I would, at a minimum, toss it in the gutter, or worse, give you a failing grade for the exam.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Greenescapist's avatar
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    I took the test in May, too. I wasn't happy that I won't hear if I passed until August, but I got over it. In many professions, people don't get results from professional exams for months. We just caught it at a bad time.

    Enjoy your summer and hopefully you'll get a good surprise in August.

  5. #5
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Greenescapist View post
    I took the test in May, too. I wasn't happy that I won't hear if I passed until August, but I got over it. In many professions, people don't get results from professional exams for months. We just caught it at a bad time.

    Enjoy your summer and hopefully you'll get a good surprise in August.
    I'm pretty much over my anger at this point regarding the delayed results. I'm still miffed that it is taking longer to "evaluate the exam" than other professional certifications do when they go through the same necessary process, but I can live with it as it is designed to enhance our profession.

    What I have not forgiven them for:
    • delays in processing my application even though I turned it in early like they recommended, with all of the verifications. The extended testing window still left me with less time than I should have had to study.
    • Failure of State and Local PDOs to address new exam content & weighting in AICP Prep Courses.
    • Refusing to respond to my telephone calls and emails.
    • Errors in the questions, like not having defined what answer options I, II, III and IV are.
    • Unprofessional typographical and gramatical errors laced throughout the exam.
    • The lack of exam content addressing ethics.

    EDIT: Raises are far from a forgone conclusion for planners receiving AICP. I do not get a raise for AICP, but it does improve my chances for a promotion later on or a better job elsewhere. It is not particularly common in municipal planning departments to get certification pay increases. That type of thing is usually only for civil service positions like firefighters or those lucky few that have a public employees union. Even then, you think AICP results in an extra $2,000 a month (June 1 - August 31 = 3 months... $6,000/3 = $2,000)? I'm a mid-level planner at a city, and this would be a 40% pay increase--not gonna happen. At best, I can't imagine it resulting in more than a 5% raise. Oh, and the APA/AICP Salary Survey is hardly an accurate portrayal of AICP value--experience is the real cause for higher salaries and experienced planners just happen to have AICP in most cases.

    Also, your letter lacks a certain level of tact necessary for a successful complaint letter. That first paragraph immediately turned me off to whatever other valid points you might have.
    Last edited by Suburb Repairman; 19 Jun 2008 at 11:07 AM.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  6. #6
    Cyburbian tsc's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    While I understand your concern about AICP, I find this letter extremely unprofessional and insulting to AICP.
    i would agree....
    "Yeehaw!" is not a foreign policy

    Renovating the '62 Metzendorf
    http://metzendorf.blogspot.com/

  7. #7
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by iamnyc View post
    Using a very simple calculation, this delay costs the test takers, those that financed the exam, who will be the future dues-paying members of the AICP, up to $6,000 each in potential lost wages (and, at approximately 600 applicants, up to maybe $2,400,000 in total lost wages) or income; for the newest AICP members, those in need of the increased income the most! All this PLUS if we pass, we get a pro-rated bill for that time we were AICP members but not able to use the designation for possible additional income or wages!
    I think that's a stretch. While AICP planners probably get paid more, it's because they generally have more years of experience under their belt, and more of them will likely be in higher-level positions. I've heard of a few employers that will offer a small incentive for AICP certification, such as a small merit raise, but I'm willing to bet that nobody gets five-digit raises from their employers just for adding those four initials after their name.

    I'm AICP. My salary at my previous employer was barely above the 25th percentile mark for my peers according to the APA salary survey.

    EDIT: Suburb Repairman said essentially the same thing in his amended post.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    The practice of including sample questions was in place before the switch to electronic exams (as they are now conducted) and is a standard practice in any testing. Those of us who took the exam years ago went through the same waiting period. It isn't as nice as knowing immediately, but it is not that great a hardship. I can find many serious faults with the AICP program, but this is not one of them.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian transguy's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by iamnyc View post
    As I am sure that you are aware, typically the AICP exam lets you know immediately afterwards whether or not you passed. This practice has been in place since the tests began to be administered electronically. However, this particular testing cycle, us fortunate ones will not find out our results in a timely fashion. We have to wait until "August", for an undetermined date, due to new questions being added to the exam (a practice which I, nor any other planner, should oppose). For this honor, of being AICP's guinea pigs, we were made to take a longer exam, have to expend more time studying and wait up to four months to know the result of our exams.
    Weren't you aware of this wait time for results prior to the exam, or even prior to registering for the exam? I'm just not sure what the complaint is. This seems like one of the issues that AICP did a fairly good job on; they knew that results would not be available immediately and they posted this everywhere they could. Everyone knew that the results wouldn't be immediate. Why is this concern coming after the exam, as opposed to when the news was first released?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by tsc View post
    When I took the test...I had to wait months. I don't see a real issue with this, because I think they should evaluate the results of the test before seeing if you passed or failed. I think they should evaluate questions. I was about 10 years ago, but I think I had to wait 6 months. I think you make some very good points in the letter though about other issues.

    I also don't think that the difference of AICP impacts your salary so much if you don't have at least 10-15 years experience.
    I have to agree. I became AICP as a goal and challenge. I would think most of the better planners would want to be challenged. I see the relationship as being there are a higher number of the better paid planners being certified because they are better or more experienced planners. An AICP certification will not get you a raise in itself, anyone can pass a test, its the application of knowledge that commands better salaries.

    Oh, and for the record I waited months to get my results as well. Like TSC I am glad they would throw out the questions that caused problems.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    I'm not normally one to comment on a post like this, but bad writing is a huge pet peeve of mine. There are two little things called subtlety and tact which are normally employed when trying to be taken seriously while voicing displeasure in a professional setting... and your letter is missing both. Do you really expect the person who opens that letter at the AICP to read past the first paragraph? On the off chance he/she does, do you think they will take you seriously once they get to your random political message at the end (regardless of whether i agree with the message...which I do)? Maybe it's just me, but a first paragraph along the lines of this might have gone over a little better:

    Dear Mr. Doe,

    While I appreciate the benefits that AICP certification provides me both professionally and personally (even if you dont... its called politicking), having just taken the AICP exam I have a few concerns which I would like to share. I understand why you have to decided to do x,y,z but in my opinion, while there are clearly benefits to such a system, I also find there to be a few negatives. etc etc etc

    not perfect or thought out, but you get the idea...

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Planning Fool's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by s1m0n66 View post
    There are two little things called subtlety and tact which are normally employed when trying to be taken seriously while voicing displeasure in a professional setting...

    Dear Mr. Doe,

    While I appreciate the benefits that AICP certification provides me both professionally and personally (even if you dont... its called politicking), having just taken the AICP exam I have a few concerns which I would like to share. I understand why you have to decided to do x,y,z but in my opinion, while there are clearly benefits to such a system, I also find there to be a few negatives. etc etc etc

    not perfect or thought out, but you get the idea...
    I have to agree with the comments above about using tact.

    I also just took the AICP exam, and I'm feeling the frustration of having to wait until August to get my results, however, I also recognize the fact that I CHOSE to take the exam during the first test window for a new format of the exam. I CHOSE to take the exam when there was going to be a longer wait due to the fact that the results of the exam need to be evaluated. So, I have to accept some responsibility for the situation I'm in.
    Prediction is difficult, especially about the future. :-o
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  13. #13
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
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    If you had such issues with AICP or professionals you know with those four little letters after their name, perhaps you should've saved your $450 exam fee. How much of your time have you spent in prepping for the test, taking the test, writing the letter and stewing over taking a test you didn't have to take? Multiply that by your wage/hour rate and perhaps you'll find you owe yourself a snippy letter and a rebate.
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally posted by iamnyc View post
    Open Letter Regarding the Spring, 2008 AICP Testing Cycle

    The salary difference noted in the most recent AICP salary survey was $18,000 annually between those with AICP certification and those without.
    Someone needs to let me know where I can get this job. I got a $1,000 bonus and no raise, and I'm fairly certain that some of my friends got NOTHING when they passed the AICP Exam.

    Also, on the subject of being "guinea pigs" for new questions, this exam HAS to evolve with the times, else AICP means absolutely nothing. This practice is common in other disciplines and other standardized tests. Take the GRE for example - it is a 4-part test, but only 3 parts count. The 4th part is EVERYONE being a guinea pig for new questions.

    Sorry you had to wait, but that is life. Also, you aren't AICP until you receive the certificate. Passing the test does not mean that you can put the letters after your name. I knew I passed in November a few years ago, and it was July before I was able to put the letters after my name (when AICP determined it 'official').

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