So I’m taking a bit of a detour in this post. For the last few days, I haven’t been able to think too much about next school year because this week is one of the most important weeks of the current school year for my students (and myself). Advanced Placement exams are this week – Friday, in fact. It’s always a stressful time. We’ve been steadily reviewing for three weeks now, but I’m always wishing we could do more.
The funny thing about teaching AP for me is that intellectually I know teaching and learning is about more than one score on one test, even a comprehensive, well-designed one like the AP history test. I believe that lifelong learning is about curiosity, passion, engagement. And while I whole-heartedly believe in the Advanced Placement program, I know that my students are more than a number from 1-5, and I know that I, as a teacher, am more than the sum total of my students’ scores. As I say, intellectually I know this. Come May, however, my intellect goes on a holiday it seems because it suddenly appears to me like “The Test” is everything.
Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be a post about whether AP and standardized tests accurately reflect learning or whether teachers should be held accountable for test results. Good, research-based arguments can be made for both sides of those debates, and usually the answer lies somewhere in the middle of two extremes. This post is really just a reminder for me that learning is a process, and while some students will show their progress on the AP exam with high scores, others will show it in other ways and perhaps not right away. It’s also a reminder to me to make sure that I communicate to students (and parents) that, while I most assuredly want them to do their best and hope that they receive credit for their hard work in the form of a “passing” score, I hope that the course is more than the test. I hope they learn to read and think more critically, to write more fluently and with greater authority, and to ask questions that will keep them learning into the future. Worse than hearing that a student didn’t do as well on the test as he’d hoped is hearing that same student say that, given that low score, there was no point to taking the course in the first place. While I hope that all my students do well on Friday, I really hope that regardless of the scores they receive the students feel the year was worth it in some way.