Entering the Classroom and AP Classes

Yesterday I finally got into my classroom. I worked on (and finished!) a couple presentations and then began to plan what I want my room to look like this year. The presentations took about four hours to create, so I was fairly tired of being hunched over my computer and decided to call it for the day.

However, looking around my classroom really got me excited to begin a new school year!

I tend to try and include a few things each year that help make the room interesting to students and help students navigate the courses they take. Some of these items are:

  • a bulletin board that includes something to encourage reading good books,
  • a center for classroom supplies which students can use whenever they wish,
  • a bulletin board that allows students to know me better,
  • posters that help students know the class routines (such as what to do when absent),
  • student work examples from the previous year,
  • senior pictures from the previous year, and
  • goal charts.

Even though I’m not “artsy” or “crafty” I enjoy putting my classroom together. The wall art (including the colors and items chosen), the arrangement of the desks, the placement of the teacher’s desk, and more create the atmosphere of the classroom. Just as in a personal relationship, teachers only get one chance to make a first impression with their students and the classroom is an important piece.

My goal in my room is to make sure the students feel comfortable, to ensure they understand that they will be the focus, and  to convey that the students will be working. I’m excited to get started! 🙂

I also took an hour to read some education articles, and one in particular caught my attention. Apparently, Maryland schools are increasing the number of students in AP classes, but the article writer notes “In at least 19 high schools throughout the Baltimore region, more than half of the students who earned an A or B in an AP class failed the exam.” This, of course, means that these students struggle mightily when they get to their universities, and the author also states that “Many students arrive at college with AP courses on their transcripts, but with skills so low they must take remedial classes.”

Numerous things could explain this. Grade inflation, grading on effort, a disconnect between what is taught and what is on the test, guaranteeing higher grades for challenging themselves, students taking classes beyond their abilities, students simply getting an experience (which could provide a preview of a college class), and more.

In my classes I let students rewrite and rework papers and projects as often as they want because my goal is for the students to learn the processes and to improve their skills. AP tests are a one-shot opportunity. There are no rewrites, no reworkings. They can’t ask clarifying questions, receive affirmations, or be nudged in a better direction. When my students take their AP tests, I have to hope they have all the preparation they need to succeed. Not all of them do.

Allowing students to take advanced courses, to me, is a positive even if those students may struggle in them or with the culminating tests. However, this also means not bringing the standards of the course down to the students; we have to bring the students up to the standards of the course. The thorn on this rose, of course, is that some of the students won’t make it, won’t pass the test, but did the students do enough to earn credit in the course?

A test is not a course, and a course is not a test.

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