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Okay, I Will Share My AP Testing Data

A new friend asked me if I would share any AP testing data that I’ve gathered since embracing Readers and Writers Workshop. I had to think about it since I rarely think about it. I do appreciate the question though because it led to this post.

I need to tell you right up front:  While I appreciate the AP exam as a high-stakes test, I do not lay a lot of value on testing data for many reasons.

So many factors figure into how a group of students tests each year, and looking at figures from one year to the next, and trying to compare numbers with different groups of students has never made sense to me. The only real valid data is the growth I measure from the fall when students walk into my door until they leave me in the spring. However, I can tell you that the first year I implemented Readers and Writers Workshop and gave up whole class novels in favor of encouraging students to read books of their choice and taught skills with short, sophisticated, complex texts, my students’ scores were 12% higher than my students’ scores the year before.

The best I can do to respond to your question is to quote Stephen Krashen in the article “Free Reading:”  “. . .research strongly suggests that free reading is the source of our reading prowess and much of our vocabulary and spelling development, as well as our ability to understand sophisticated phrases and write coherent prose. The secret of its effectiveness is simple: children become better readers by reading.”

And…  “Research has . . .shown that SSR is at least as effective as conventional teaching methods in helping children acquire those aspects of reading that are measured by standardized tests, and pleasure reading provides a great deal that these tests don’t measure.”

The first two years I taught AP, I tried to do it like I learned at my APSI. I assigned the traditional novels taught in American literature: The Scarlet Letter, Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, The Awakening, The Grapes of Wrath — because the other AP teacher on my campus did. I can tell you, my students did not read. They even told me later that they didn’t — lots of joking about that on Facebook a few years after they left me. They knew how to play the fake-reading game perfectly.

I know Krashen’s research centers on much younger grades than our students in AP English; however, reading is reading, and students gain skills by doing it — skills that improve their lives far beyond those tested on one day in May as they sit for the AP English exam.

My students just wrote end-of-year reading evaluations on their blogs. Here’s a few of the highlights about reading this year in their own words. This is the kind of data I value:

“Being apart of a reading community has benefited me deeply within my entire life. Even though I didn’t read as much as I wanted to, the reading that I did do was very beneficial. Reading helped me expand my vocabulary a lot. Sometimes when I would speak to my mom I would use a word that I learned from the book I was reading and she would just look at me like she didn’t know who I was. Reading also helped me become a better writer. So many different books that I read helped me use different structures, understand how to use rhetorical devices, and use my upper level vocabulary.”  DeDe, currently reading Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

“Being part of a reading community as a student opened my mind how others thought of the book we were currently reading together. Occasionally, I’m an ostrich that’s always in the ground; thoughts to myself, ideas to myself, and the “this is what this means” mentality. I’ve slowly learned how to use the point of view of others by implementing it into my own work. In addition, this year’s English class did not feel like a burden compared to previous years. The freedom of choice we were given provided us with the decision to pick a book we enjoyed.” Doreen, currently reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

“I believe the place I need to improve as a reader is being able to find the hidden meanings or putting everything together in order for me to understand a book. Sometimes without me noticing I just read to read and I forget what I read and have to read the paragraph or page again in order for me to understand it. I need to read and take everything under consideration and understand what it is that I’m reading and at the end put it back together. Maybe my problem is that I try to read too fast.” Johnny, currently reading The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

“Being part of a reading community benefited me because I always felt like I needed to be reading a book. It felt splendid being a part of something, especially something I would of never thought I would be a part of.  I understood the importance of reading. The more you read, the better writer you will become. I realized what genre of books I liked and which ones I didn’t. Most importantly I explored a different variety of books and read a minimum of 12 books. Something I had never done before. Usually I would read a minimum of 3 books every year.” Lizbeth, currently reading Playing Dead byJulia Heaberlin

“My journey began with Escape From Camp 14. I moved through different genres and difficulty levels thereafter: Anna and the French kiss, Allegiant, High School Bites, The Glass Castle, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Where’d You Go Bernadettte, The Art of Secrets, The Hot Zone, Little Bee, The Joy Luck Club, Down the Rabbit Hole, Room, Incendiary, The Wright 3, and most recently, Y. During this time, I abandoned The Kite Runner, The Thirteenth Tale, Ready Player One, Saving Fish From Drowning, Telegraph Avenue, and Station Eleven.   Even I find it odd, that out of the entire list, I enjoyed The Joy Luck Club more than any other. I say this because I’m not the patient type- I like constant action, fueled excitement. The Joy Luck Club almost counters that expectation, and if I had to describe it, I might even consider calling it boring.” Nawoon, currently choosing — just abandoned Station Eleven

This evaluation by Jasmine is too good to not share the whole of it. And this one by Shaniqua.

I just need to share one more thing, a little gift I got today as I read student reading evaluations. I know most teachers get these at one time or another.

It is the thing that keeps us going.

Laura wrote:

“I still need to improve on not judging a book by it’s cover. For us to GROW as people, we must get out of our COMFORT ZONE and pick up a shattered book because it needs someone to appreciate it’s language. As much as reading conference were sometimes nerve wrecking for me, they helped me get a second opinion on my progress in class as a human and not merely as a student. I can never thank Mrs. Rasmussen enough for dedicating chunks of her life to her students. Positivity in a world were criticism is many people’s issue is so rare and pure. She truly cares about each of us and sees past our struggles and attitudes and tries her best to help us understand it’s okay to have emotions and display them for others to see.  I’ve learned it’s more important to turn our conflicts into beautiful gifts instead of becoming a bitter person.”

Don’t you think that is better than any testing data?

©Amy Rasmussen, 2011 – 2015

 
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14 thoughts on “Okay, I Will Share My AP Testing Data

  1. […] written beautifully about AP test scores. About how the score isn’t everything and about  how growth in an AP class is about more than testing data. Kathy’s sentiment solidified for me that come July, the scores will be what they are. […]

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  2. […] Really, when it comes to grades, if my students show me growth and improvement, the grading is easy. It’s all about moving as readers. Eventually, most students come to realize that — and they thank me for making reading matter again. […]

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  3. […] Students tell me every year, “Thank you for allowing me to love reading again.” […]

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  4. […] with all this reading:  most 16-year-olds are not readers. At least not when they come to me. (They do change.) Somewhere along their educational journey, the love of reading has gone by the wayside. Most […]

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  5. […] Rasmussen shares her AP Testing Data–including the data that actually matters, what her students […]

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jeannine Ugalde May 29, 2015 at 8:59 pm Reply

    Amy, with your kind word and support I ventured into reading workshop this year AND braved blogs at the end of the year. Although skeptics abound on campus, my students have me convinced. Thank you for sharing your passion!
    Jeannine Ugalde
    9th and 10th grade English

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sarah Krajewski (@shkrajewski) May 29, 2015 at 8:37 am Reply

    LOVE this post Amy! I love that you are an AP teacher that promotes reading and writing workshop. You have the “data” to prove that it works in your students’ amazing blogs. If I did have the chance to teach an AP class (my school does not have any), I would mostly definitely include reading and writing workshop.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. steelmsl May 27, 2015 at 4:58 am Reply

    Amen to that! Our district is very transparent about sharing our scores, which can be embarrassing if students do not do well. But I will say this: changing to an emphasis on choice reading changed my AP Literature classroom this year. One component that I added was including much more writing about what students were reading. Workshopping AP prompts also added practice, which the students said helped immensely this year on the National Exam. But the MOST IMPORTANT part was talking about books in a coffee house style – Socratic seminars became our staple on Fridays where we talked about stories, plays, what we were reading – all that lovely literature that students were hungry to discuss! It’s changed my classroom, and we are all the better for it. I do hope my scores go up this year to support the changes I made after a long, hard look at my practice. But the most important thing is that students are reading – and loving it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy May 27, 2015 at 9:59 am Reply

      Ms. Steel, Thank you for this comment. I am so glad to meet another AP English teacher who embraces and advocates for choice reading. Your class sounds wonderful. I’d love to visit. Best blessings to you and your readers!

      Like

  9. mscansdale May 26, 2015 at 8:01 pm Reply

    Such an inspiring post! I plan to share this with our high school teachers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy May 27, 2015 at 9:59 am Reply

      Thanks for the comment. I hope your teachers enjoy it!

      Like

  10. Erika B. May 26, 2015 at 8:37 am Reply

    You got it, A! The most profound, and sure way, to have students not feel confined to a test is to r-e-a-d. That simple. As the end of the year is spiraling, reflection is vital; for both students and educators. I love, love, love this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. donalynm May 26, 2015 at 8:18 am Reply

    I am continuously inspired by this blog and share it everywhere I can. Thank you for opening the door of your classroom, so we can all learn. I wish my daughter’s AP teacher could read this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy May 27, 2015 at 9:46 am Reply

      Thank you for your comment, but especially for your support. We do important work, and the more educators we can convince to change their approach to reading instruction and allow choice to get students reading and engaging, the better our society. I truly believe that. Thanks, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

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