Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Confessions of an AP Comparative Government Reader. Part 1.

Kansas City is a nice city.  It was something that I wasn’t totally prepared for since I come from the San Francisco Bay Area and the image of the Midwest is, well, not entirely upgraded.  Ok, call it snobbery.  But the over two million people that live in Kansas City metro have a city they should be proud of.  Downtown has the feel of Portland, small and quaint, while having the architecture of a much bigger city.  The one thing the city is missing?  Light rail.  With all the railroad history of the city, it is sorely lacking an efficient method of getting from downtown to the ‘burbs.

Our hotel was a tad over a mile from the Kansas City Convention Center (another fantastic structure), and walking it wasn’t tough except for the fact that part of the area was a tad seedy, and it was often humid.  My day started at 6 a.m.  By 8 I was reading questions, and by 5 p.m. I was done.  We had two 15 minute breaks and one hour long lunch. 

The process started with a group of us, one table leader and eight readers, going over the rubric of the question.  We worked through language, potential stumbling blocks, and then we practiced on exams graded earlier by some of the higher ups.  Once that was taken care of we started grading the real things, but we would grade and then switch with people and they would grade the same work. We would compare grades and then work out dissimilar answers (which were rare).  By the second day we were in the full throes of grading, which were checked a variety of times by different people.  When we finished on Friday, we were then debriefed on the question and then went on our way. 

The Kansas City grading involved over two thousand graders attacking nearly 3/4 of a million tests.  No, that’s not a misprint. My AP Comparative Government group was one of the smaller groups.  Other subjects included Chinese, Japanese, Biology, and Calculus.  Each subject had other events including socials, a “professional day” where an expert would talk about a certain area of your subject (we had a woman talk about Russia), an AP subject day where changes within your overall subject would be discussed, and an AP test day where the test creators would field questions.

I highly recommend that  AP teachers attend at least one reading.  I’m going to keep going back because the more I can get into the head of the College Board and the test creators, the better opportunity I have to get my kids to succeed.  It is that very topic that I will address in the next post.

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