I teach Advanced Placement US History. Normally this course is taken over two semesters in college. The first semester is US History to 1865 and the second semester continues until present. It is worth 6 credits. In high school, 11th grade students take this class over 9 months and take The Test for the entire course. In addition, students also must write three essays, one using 10-12 documents. Obviously it is a very, very hard class. So the 3 hour exam they take in May is referred to as The Test.
We spend 9 months covering more information than is humanly possible to remember. They read, they write, they get corrected and they read and write more. They do not get a break at Christmas, they get two chapters to read. If not, we cannot finish the curriculum before The Test. They must know historical figures and events, authors, painters, treaties, amendments, rise of labor, women’s movement, civil rights, presidential administrations, wars – in other words, there is no limit to the amount of information my students need to know for The Test. It is the most difficult of all College Board Tests.
My students are currently in the auditorium taking The Test. I met them this morning, gave them some snacks and a pep talk. We are all nervous but they are as ready as they ever will be. I told them yesterday that, to me, this class is like giving birth. I try to do everything right by them for 9 months and then the reward is delivered on the second Wednesday of AP testing. They love this analogy.
All in all, my school has about 2 classes of AP qualified students in each grade level. However, I have 92 students in my AP classes, far more than 2 classes.
About 40-45% of my students will pass with a 3 or higher. They are the students who read on a college level, take notes throughout the year, can make connections between events over time, and in general, have a high level of reasoning skills. Depending on the university they attend, they will already have college credits when they enter. It’s a great program for these high achieving students. Some of my students will have completed almost their first 2 years of college before they graduate high school.
About another 40% of my class will score a 2. It is not passing but because they took this class, they are much better prepared for college classes in the future. They have worked really hard to get this score since AP classes are so much harder than the honors or regular classes they have taken.
A smaller number of my students will score a 1. These are kids who were placed incorrectly in my college level class. They read on a middle school level. They cannot read the textbook with any understanding and do not comprehend the numerous high level concepts they need to pass The Test. I feel sorry for these kids because they know they will not pass. I also feel bad because they are not better students since I was teaching and assigning reading that was over their head the entire year.
My students have already finished a multiple choice exam. They had 55 minutes to answer 80 high level questions on everything from Macon’s Bill #2 to naming Washington’s Sec. of War. Currently, they are in the process of writing three essays. The first gives them a question and about 10-12 documents. The other two are just free response questions. They will write for about 2 hours, creating a thesis statement to prove and justifying their position.
About 11:30 I will greet my students as they are leaving the auditorium. Most of them will be elated because the course is over and because they feel good about their progress. Everyone will feel a great weight lifted as they get their life back. They will be very proud of their work and they should be extremely proud.
This is my last AP Exam. These are the days I will miss when I retire.