I’ve written before about the predictability of student achievement. The achievement gap is big and sinister, and the reason I’m a teacher is to mess with it, to help students do something they didn’t think was possible.
Last year, 8 percent of students passed the AP Literature and Composition exam. The highest pass rate ever for our school was 62 percent, in 2008.
When I first was assigned the course, I was unclear about what my goal should be. I’m still unsure. Would I be happy if 50 percent passed? That’d be much higher than last year, but it still would mean a failure rate of 50 percent. I say no. A pass rate of 100 percent would be nice (and cause for the sequel to Stand and Deliver), but I’m no Jaime Escalante. What about 67 percent, a record for our school? That seems just right.
Note: That goal comes out of nowhere. Because this is my first time teaching the class, I don’t have a score to improve. Besides, a goal of 67 percent doesn’t take into consideration the students’ likelihood of passing the exam before taking AP English. Perhaps all of them, with a different teacher, could pass the test, and I’m actually lowering their chances.
So there needs to be a baseline. On Monday, students their first full-length multiple-choice section, which accounts for 45 percent of the overall AP score. After consulting College Board, I looked at my students’ results and sorted them into three categories — green, yellow, and red — based on their current likelihood of passing. (If you want to know more about how I determined these categories, let me know.)
Of my students, 11, or 48 percent, were in the green category.
So now some questions arise:
- Will those 11 students end up passing the exam in May? (I hope so!)
- If #1 is true, then I need five more students to get to my 67 percent goal. Can I do that? Or is predictability too strong (or am I ineffective)?
- What’s the best way to make sure #2 happens? What does it take?
- What about the other seven students, particularly the five who scored really low? (One got 4/55 correct; another got 8/55.) Is it impossible for them to pass?