- What’s the big goal? – to pass the test, or something else?
- What books should we read?
This post will start on the first question.
When I got my assignment, my first reaction was, Let’s get these scores up. The pass rate at my school has plummeted since 2008, when 62 percent, about the national average, earned a score of 3, 4, or 5. This year, only 8 percent passed. That’s alarming, disturbing, and inexcusable.
It makes sense, then, that my primary purpose should be to help students pass the test. After all, passing the AP would mean that students would likely feel confident walking into an introductory college English course.
But what if they don’t? What happens if my students and I work hard and still fail the test?
Or, what happens if 50 percent pass? This would be huge progress from the past three years, but would that “success” be satisfactory to the half who fail?
Part of me says, there’s no way I’ll do worse than 8 percent. It’s pretty much impossible, right? But the other part asks whether I have what it takes — especially in my first year teaching the class — to get my students to the level that AP requres.
One of my colleagues, who taught the class back when students did better, warned me to make the class about more than just passing the test. I tend to agree. There’s nothing inherently memorable, after all, about the test. You take it for a few hours, and then you wait until July to get your score. My bestt classes have always been much more authentic than that: we do big things, and the success that comes on tests is just part of the journey.
The question is whether it’s possible to get a high-enough pass rate without an explicit, urgent push toward that goal.
According to the data, I don’t think it is. After all, the past three years, students have worked hard, had a good teacher, enjoyed the class, talked about literature, and gotten mostly 1s and 2s.
My challenge, then, is to push hard, make the test a collective goal, ask students how important passing is to them, create a rich learning environment, and share my passion of reading and of seeing them succeed.