Tuesday, July 6, 2010

AP Exam Results

I spent about an hour of my day today obsessively refreshing the CollegeBoard’s AP Score reporting site until I was lucky enough to slip through the overload of teachers, presumably doing the same thing as me (if my Twitter and Facebook friends are a representative sample).

I was excited because I was sure that my students had done well. I was sure that at least of few of my students would have passing scores and even crossed my fingers for a 4 (or even a 5!) from my most talented child. Finally I got through, so I paused the episode of Mad Men that I was watching to wait for my extremely slow Internet connection to load the page (I can’t complain – free internet via the computer store I live above).

And not one of my 13 students passed the exam.

Not one.

Of my 13 students, 11 earned 1’s and 2 earned 2’s.

There are, of course, a lot of factors that I can blame beside myself.

“These kids” have never been challenged before -- Honors classes were only implemented this year, and it is VERY difficult to successfully differentiate instruction with levels that range from I-don’t-understand-the-difference-between-a-rectangle-and-a-square! and Can-I-stay-in-your-room-at-lunch-and-do-extra-trig-identity-problems?

“These kids” don’t know how to study because they’ve literally never had to study before, breezing through classes that are not at all challenging.

“These kids” have never had to do more that 30 minutes of homework in a night.

“These kids” are under-prepared – who knows what they even learned in middle school? And we all know that the 9th grade HSA Algebra class is a joke (or at least it was two years ago)!

“These kids” have poor literacy skills, which are extremely important in AP Statistics – in fact, there is more reading and writing than computation!

But, the truth is that it’s my job to get “these kids” to understand AP Statistics and to be able to communicate that understanding. And I was not successful this year. I need to make some drastic changes, because my lack of success is absolutely not acceptable. My job is to take the kids from where they are to a passing score on the AP exam.

Standards based grading, though I was at first reluctant to use it in my AP class, may be a part of what I do to make sure that students understand the content. Quarterly projects where students must communicate their knowledge orally might be helpful. I clearly need to read some books about literacy and incorporate strategies in my classroom.

This is how I will spend the rest of my summer – preparing for a brand new year. The status quo isn’t sufficient.

Bright spot. Jaime Escalante did not get the results that we watch in Stand and Deliver in a year or two. He first had to become department head and create a pipeline in which students experienced rigorous math curriculum beginning in middle school. It took him 8 years to get all those students to pass.

Now, I'm not Escalante. But, I'm a good teacher. I can be a better teacher. I can guide "these kids" to become "those kids" who triumphed against the odds.

10 comments:

A BCPSS Parent said...

Argh!! I feel your pain - tears welling up... It's hard, but you care and your students know it. It's so hard to define a good teacher in any quantitative method. What I know from talking to my kids and going to conferences is that there's a connection and a caring. There have been good teachers and not so much. You're a good teacher.

Oh, and while you're at it, blog some too. Not that I've got much room to talk. I was supposed to post 300 times this year... Oh well.

Epiphany in Baltimore said...

I'm sorry that the scores were not where you hoped they would be. As your program develops more and more, I'm sure you will see opportunities to plan more vertically so kids come to your class better prepared. Have you thought about teaching a class along the vertical sequence before AP, so you can get your hands into that planning as well?

Anyhow, know that just getting them to where you got them will help them prepare for college and life. And next year is a fresh start and you can try new things.

iTeach said...

I feel your pain. I want to just hug you right now and just reassure you that yes, indeed, you are a good teacher. It takes guts to teach an AP class for the first time when "these kids" have never encountered an honors class, much less the rigor of an AP class. And I'm happy to see how positive you are - unoblivious to the fact that your kids DID learn something in an AP stats class, you DID risk things and try SBG among other things, and there is room for improvement, but you're the person smart enough and caring enough to do it.
Loved this post.

sam shah said...

You are awesome and I am so inspired by your honesty and ability to work through disappointment to make that disappointment mean something.

I wish I were more like that. I wish my kids could be more like that.

You complete me. Oh, no, that's not right. You remind me to snap out of it when I feel like I'm not successful in the classroom, and say "instead of wallowing, what can I do about it?" Easier said than done.

Thank you.

Anne said...

Jaime Escalate's administration hated him.
Jaime's program fell apart as soon as he left the school.
Don't be Jaime Escalate. Be you. If you care this much my guess is you're gonna be better.

Jackie McKenna said...

Thank you, everyone, for your kind comments. I'm actually kind of shocked that my wallowing/student-blaming/self-pitying time only lasted about 5 seconds. These scores have been a kick in the pants, and I've been working like crazy ever since, seriously reading up on SBG and spending a lot of time reading blogs and tweets for lots of ideas.

Turns out, only one student out of about 50 who took AP exams at our school this year got a 3 (and last year we had just one passer, one of my stats kids). It's a school-wide issue of low expectations, lack of rigor, and under-preparedness. I have every hope that my "actual" colleagues will be just as interested in improving their teaching as my twitter/blog (twog? bwitter?) colleagues, but it is tough when some of them literally refer to our kiddos as "these kids can't" or "these kids don't".

Stacy said...

Thanks for completing my survey. I have nothing really profound to offer you in response to this post except to say that in spite of these results, you must be having an impact on "those kids" that you're teaching. They are lucky to have such a committed teacher.

Hedgetoad said...

move on over... I'm climbing into the same boat.

One student who probably could have passed told me she didn't even finish the all of the essays. :(

Charles said...

I actually enjoyed reading through this posting.Many thanks.
Madras University Results

A BCPSS Parent said...

So it's that time of the year again. Better results this time? And is there anyway a parent/student can get on-line results or do we just have to wait for snail-mail?