This post was originally published on the HS Bits Blog, which was active from 2008-2013.
If you taught an AP® class this year, you recently received an e-mail inviting you to see your students´ scores. Granted, it is summer vacation and nerve-racking number crunching doesn’t go over too well poolside, but the truth is we’ll have to deal with those numbers at some point. So why not now, before the start of the new school year? The test results are more than just an evaluation of our students, or even our classes; they provide us with another way to revise a syllabus. Here’s some approaches to adopt.
Examine the exam. This is the most obvious. Teachers should look at what came up on the test, and compare it with the material taught. Did students have the reading skill set for all the literary movements presented? Which section do you think your students had the most trouble with? Your answers to those question might lead you reconsider some of your approaches.
Guess scores. A colleague recommended this to me, and it was very revealing. After students take the exam, write down what you expect them to have scored. When the actual scores come out, compare them. Which were the surprises? Why do you think some students scored so differently from your expectations? This generally reflects your understanding of the exam as well as your understanding of your students.
Revise reading. It never hurts to tweak even the best syllabus. Test results can serve as a reminder to ensure that all material is covered in your course. Although the College Board does not include the names of authors that appear in multiple choice, a Google search with quotation marks will often lead to the text cited. I think this is sometimes an even better gauge than the College Board’s data assessment, which groups authors by century, not nearly specific as one would like. (Compare the reading skill sets required to read a poem by contemporaries John Donne and John Milton.) Also, if you look over past exams, you might notice new trends. For example, what kind of free verse are they selecting?
After following these guidelines, I know I’ll be doing certain things quite differently this coming year. In the meantime, I’ve got some summer reading to do.
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