I found out my students’ scores on the AP test a few days ago.
I’m still in shock.
Advanced Placement exams are scored on a 1-5 scale, with 3 considered passing at most colleges. Only two of my students earned a 3. Nearly everyone got a 2. There were a few 1s.
When I learned that I would be teaching AP English, I vowed to raise last year’s pass rate, when only one student out of 14 passed the exam. Even though at times I thought that AP English is unfair, I believed that my students and I would work hard, demonstrate grit, and eke out 3s.
It didn’t happen. Despite our work, the pass rate stayed the same.
Nationwide, 55 percent of students received a 3, 4, or 5. That means that 91 percent of my students scored in the bottom half. In other words, even my best students did no better than mediocre.
A few of my friends have reached out to offer consolation. I’ve appreciated their words. But the biggest conclusion I’m reaching is that there is a difference between being a good teacher and being an excellent teacher.
You’re a good teacher when your colleagues, students, and parents appreciate you. You work hard and you care. You design good curriculum, listen carefully, and build a safe learning environment. You go above and beyond.
You’re an excellent teacher, though, when you combine good-teacher qualities and getting results. You figure out which good-teacher qualities really matter. Your students achieve more and do better.
This year, despite getting my students to read 13 books and write 16 essays, despite assigning them online writing mentors and in-person grammar coaches, and despite providing them with Saturday study sessions and hundreds of dollars of test prep materials, I was not an excellent teacher.
Sure, there are other measures of in addition to the AP test results. I don’t believe that test scores are the only way to assess my teaching. But it’s important not to explain away the 2s. The 2s are there, and they’re many, and there’s no way around them.
In an upcoming post, I’ll have more to say about what this all means to me. But for right now, I’ll be OK to stay with the disappointment for a while. The next step will be to deal with my students’ reaction when they find out the news this week.