Last night, a student communicated with me her dilemma over taking the AP Psychology exam in May. This student is one of my best students and would more than likely score a five on the exam.
The college she will attend next year does not accept a score lower than a five, and she has a second AP exam scheduled the same day as the AP Psychology exam. She doesn’t want to risk taking two exams on the same day and not doing her best on both, and the other exam is more relevant to her future plans.
What I’m really thinking: Please, take my exam. Even if you don’t prepare for it I’m sure you’ll get at least a four. When students like you choose to not take the exam it makes me look worse.
What I know is right: The AP program and exams should provide a benefit to students. (actually, maybe all aspects of education should). Students and parents, with the informed advice of teachers and school support can make appropriate educational decisions.
What I could do: I could insist that every student take the AP exam for my class. If I want a true measure of how well this class prepares students then it would make sense that all students take the test—high achievers, low achievers, and everyone in between.
What I’m happy about: My end-of-course test isn’t as high stakes as many “core” classes. I can look at my students test scores to inform instruction without having to worry so much about how the numbers look.
So what do I say: As I suggest to all of my students, if you were successful in this course you should expect success on the test. If you haven’t earned at least a C, your chances aren’t so good. If you haven’t earned at least a B and don’t plan to make time to prepare for the exam, your chances aren’t so good. Check the colleges you plan to attend and determine their policy on AP exams, compare it with your expectations, and if needed, talk to me and make an informed decision.
In the end, I’m driven by the value that responsibility for educational outcomes are shared by myself, the instructor, and the students taking my course. The test provides a significant tool to evaluate the extent to which each of us live up to our part of the responsibility. I am able to compare class grades to test scores. When discrepancies arise between a student’s class performance and assessment score I can look at all of the variables that might have contributed.
From year-to-year, I am able to modify instruction in response to information gleaned from previous year’s data.
This test has become a tool to inform and improve instruction. Students are not forced to take it for the primary purpose of providing evaluation of their teacher. Students are given the choice of determining whether the test will ultimately be in their best interest. The teacher is freed from the burden of teaching to the test and able to cover the curriculum in a meaningful context.
Current education reform debate too often pits teacher vs. student and falls back to the argument of “students first.” Is the practice of forcing every student to test for hours every year for the primary purpose of creating a system to evaluate teachers and schools a system that is focused on the best interest of the child, or on the teachers and schools that teach them.