Friday, July 23, 2010

AP scores, a story of extremes

It’s really hard to sound like you aren’t making excuses when talking about the results of tests.  In this post, I may sound like I’m trying to cover my ass in report my scores.  I’m really not.  I’m trying to analyze them in the proper context while fully admitting that I could probably do some things better for student success.  However, I’ll still reflect on what every Advanced Placement workshop instructor has told me over the last 4 years.

“In the end, it’s the student who needs to own the test.”

First the good news.  16 out of 18 students passed my AP U.S. History test.  That’s an 89% passing average on a test that has historically been at around the national average for awhile.  I was thrilled!  Those students that received a 5 on the test (the highest possible score) were definitely able to score the maximum  and it was nice to see the follow through.  Mind you, I made plenty of mistakes on pacing and didn’t get enough DBQ practice in, but I’m not sure that it would have made a whole lot of difference on the test.  Pacing?  Yes.  DBQ practice?  Probably not.  That bodes well for next year when I can polish things up and focus on sticking with the game plan (a necessity for AP classes), barring the usual distractions (assemblies, Homecoming, blah, blah).

Now the bad news.  My days of having 80% plus passing the Comparative Government exam ended this year.  Only 49% (27 out of 55) passed the test, a few points below the national average.  Of course I poured over the scores for a good long while and tried to look at the common traits of the people that didn’t pass and I found a few.  Here’s a little early analysis.

-Of the 28 that didn’t pass, six surprised me.  That means that before the test I could have pointed to the other 22 students that said that they did not have a strong chance at passing the test.  The six that didn’t pass concern me because they should have at least passed the exam with a 3, and probably much better. 

-Of the 28 that didn’t pass, nearly half missed at least ten percent of the class for one reason or another.  Attendance reared its ugly head for me this year with my Seniors and my test scores (much like my grades) paid for it. 

-None of my Second Language students passed.  Zero. 

I get a full grasp of the test until I get the question breakdown back sometime in August.  That way I can see where students excelled and where students where stupefied on examination questions.

I’ll own up to the passing rate because I accepted the choice to open up the class.  I went with the statistics that show that students even attempting to take Advanced Placement classes and the test do better in college.  Well, I’m done with that train of thought at this moment because I spent way too much time on average students taking an AP class, but not wanting to really become AP students.  After going around and around about the scores for the last week, and going back and looking at my schedule and how I altered it, I think I slowed down for students and ended up not doing a thorough enough job.  By the time April came along, I actually had to worry about students passing and graduating, and the AP test became a lower priority, thus robbing many of a better chance of getting full information.  And what’s more frustrating is that the number of students that asked for help could be counted on ONE HAND!  Online didn’t help, after school didn’t help, lunch didn’t help.  The one review session that met before the test killed the damn thing.  And they were texting me questions that I was gladly answering while driving down to a Giants game!

Oh well, nothing like mediocrity to motivate me to get my scores up to that 80% level for both classes.  AP Comp Gov was overbooked for next year and I had to turn away people.  APUSH has a full class, but the same problem remains that there are students that don’t belong in that class.  And I can hear the argument now, “everyone should have the opportunity to take an advanced class”.  You’re telling me that students that fail English and World History should get into an advanced class?  Yeah, we might want to focus on keeping the class at a high level by bringing in students that really want to achieve, not pump up grade point averages and then distract the instructor by panicking when graduation rolls around.           

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