Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Gut punch

Got the AP results back yesterday for my Language and Comp kids. They're not good enough. Only about a third passed--both for me and for the other teacher.

It bugs me that these kids worked so very hard, and that I honestly believed they were ready for the test...and then they got back the results which indicated they weren't. I know they're still better-prepared for college than they would have been if they hadn't taken the class, or even if they hadn't taken the test. But this is still a blow to my ego and a break to my heart.

AP scores, like similar test scores, are tied heavily to the parents' highest level of educational attainment. I don't want to use that as a excuse, but this is still different from the old place, where everybody doid super-duper on all tests all the time, and we all then would pat ourselves on the back about how great our school was as a result.

Even though the College Board gives us literally no help in diagnosing the problem (I have no idea if this is mostly a multiple-choice issue, or if they're bombing one of the three essays, or what), it's time to start problem-solving. These numbers need to go up next year. It's my moral imperative.


Jim Anderson said...

I feel for you, man. I'll be teaching two remedial reading courses this coming year, so I'll have plenty to work on, myself.

I wonder if your students reverted to the "try/start to fail/quit" habits you blogged about previously. I'd like to know what prompted you to think that 80% of them were going to pass--you were really jazzed about it, and these results are way, way off your expectations. Did you do much in the way of explicit test prep?

TeacherRefPoet said...


I never felt like the AP kids had trouble with quitting. They were a little unskilled at the start, but I honestly felt like they had made it to passing as far as essay quality went.

--I said 80% could pass back in teh spring, based mostly on the essays. It's possible I was overestimating due to my emotional stake in the outcome, but maybe not...compared to the exemplars, I actually was wondering if I was too hard on them.

We did very little on multiple choice, simply because I felt like the time/improvement ratio was too high to make a dent there. I may have to reconsider this and spend more time there.

We did loads of explicit test prep, but FAR more on essays than on multiple choice. And multiple choice is 45% of the grade.

Jenni said...

I don't want this comment to sound negative -- only realistic, so please take it as intended. From what I can tell, kids whose parents have achieved a high level of education have a home life better suited to achievement in reading and writing than kids whose parents don't have a high level of education. I don't mean that the kids with better-educated parents are treated better or have a less stressful time of things or even that there is a difference in their i.q.s, I just think that our educations train us how to think and to talk, and we take that training into our homes and sort of informally pass it on to our kids through dinner-table conversation and other interaction. When I was dating, the guys with little education talked to their kids about different things and their dinner-table interaction was no less loving but slightly different -- less abstract and less language-centered, certainly -- than the topics and forms of interaction that the better-educated guys had with their kids. I'm thinking that academic achievement is more about this sort of thing than about riding your kid's ass to get his homework in. I'm also thinking that there is sort of a multi-generational component to literacy, or to understanding the subtleties of language, which, of course, can be compensated for or the child might grow out of naturally as the brain develops.

TeacherRefPoet said...

I agree with all of that, Jenni, but I think it's my job to cast that out of my mind as much as possible as I teach, lest it lower my expectations.

I will hit the political cartoons earlier, however. Many of these kids had never had the kind of dinner table conversation that you and I take for granted, I think, and I need to provide at least some facsimile of that during the year. (I noticed kids putting some of the stuff we'd chat about into essays as examples later on. They understand the need to use evidence...but they don't yet have much to talk about, really.)

What concerns me most is that I thought they were ready. I still think their essays were up to snuff, and I'll have to focus more on multiple choice next year.

Jenni said...

I don't think it should lower your expectations at all. My point is that we in education have the responsibility to figure out what's going on in our classroom and figure out how to compensate for what the kids are not getting at home.