Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Scoring AP English Language Exams

I am back home after scoring 1,190 AP English Language exams over seven days in Louisville, Kentucky. There were about two thousand high school and college instructors gathered together to score the AP English Language and Literature exams. We worked everyday from 8 AM until 5 PM to score the papers. It seemed that many folks scored many more exams than I did.

Yes, I’m still a bit bleary eyed.

How the scoring works: Each reader scores one question. I was placed on question number two, which asks students to analyze the rhetoric devices used to craft a passage. The question was very similar to what I teach in college composition writing courses.

I’m sure that students who will be taking AP Exam next year are interested in what they can do to receive the highest grade possible. Stay tuned for Friday’s post for some tips.

If you are a college or high school instructor interested in scoring ETS exams onsite or in-person, click here.

If you are a high school teacher who prepares students for the AP exams, you might be interested in these teaching guides.

Here are some tips for your first time scoring AP exams in Louisville, KY:

When ETS suggests that you bring a sweater, they are serious. It is cold in that room.

Arrive well rested. It takes a lot of energy to grade and focus for eight hours a day.

You are given a schedule that includes grading from 8 AM until 5 PM, a morning and afternoon break (with snacks) and in-between stretch breaks. Be sure to move around in your chair, walk during the breaks and even stand up to grade for a while. If not, you might start feeling older than you are. There was a yoga teacher/AP scorer who regularly offers classes, so you might want to bring a mat. There are also gyms in the hotels.

There’s food everywhere. That sounds silly, but I wasn’t prepared to see so many mounds of candy and snacks. (It reminded me of my first on-campus job at Smith College in a cafeteria kitchen. That year, I wasn’t hungry after seeing food in such quantities.) The meals that were provided (all but dinner two "dine-out nights") were not spectacular (I ate out a lot), but I heard that it had been better in the past.

I was a bit intimidated to face so many hours of grading. It helped that I knew a few folks who I knew would be there, including my roommate. I found that everyone was quite friendly and made some new friends.

As you’d imagine for such a large group, readers were placed at a number of hotels. I was at the Galt House which had a lovely skyway between two towers that overlooked the Ohio River. I heard good things about the restaurant on the top floor with even better views and a rotating dining section. I didn’t go to the pool, but it was nice to have that as an option. They advertise free wireless throughout the hotel, but the signal was very weak. (This proved to be difficult for many, including me.)

There’s a lot to see in Louisville after scoring. I spent some time after I arrived walking around and admiring the facades of some older buildings. Other highlights: a poetry and short story reading at Carmichael’s bookstore, walking along the Ohio River, eating food from the smokehouse at Doc Crows, and seeing a minor league baseball game.

There are chances to see some art while you’re in town. Apparently ETS always organizes for the museums, which usually close at 5 pm, to stay open late one night. It seems that the grading often finish a little earlier on Friday, too.

I did see Glassworks, which was smaller than I’d expected. I tried to go to the Museum of Art and Craft, but, contrary to announcements, it was closed.  The gift shop had some locally made artisan gifts. I’d intended to go to the Muhammed Ali Center, but I was frankly simply too sleepy on Friday. (Perhaps if my US Airways flight hadn’t been cancelled, and then poorly rebooked, on the way there, I’d have had more time to see things.)

What other tips would seasoned AP scorers suggest?


carpenter said...

Hello Chloe:

I stumbled upon your blog as I waas searching for comments on the 2011 AP English Language exam. I am an English teacher at an American school in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

I just got my class scores. I have 27 students and half got a 3 or better. The majority of my students are ESL or English may even be their third or fourth language. I was interested in your ideas on how learning a foreign language may help with the English learning. Do you have any specific tips on how I can better tap into my students foreign languages to help them perform better on their exam.


Chloe Yelena Miller said...

Thanks so much for reading and sharing your experiences. Your school sounds wonderful!

From what I've seen in the classroom, bilingual students pay closer attention to grammar and can approach ideas with more flexibility.

In general, their vocabulary is stronger, since they can draw connections between languages and guess intelligently when they don't know the meaning of a word.

Regarding the grammar, with some prompting, the students can notice how writing is structured and how that structure is used. Single-language speakers don't usually learn grammar as methodically as second language learners (assuming it was learned in school) and often have a great separation between the structure and the meaning of what they read.

It requires great flexibility to think in more than one language. It also requires flexibility to move between two cultures. With that background, it makes it easier for students to be able to understand different perspectives in the text.

What have you found, Laurie?

Anonymous said...

Hi, Im an AP English student and I was wondering if it is true that in a stack of 9 papers, there is always a 9 and a 1 and basically every score in between? My teacher thinks that is a curve but I think he is wrong. Basically, a so-so essay in a relatively bad pile of essays would get the highest score is what he teaches us.

Chloe Yelena Miller said...

Thanks for your question. As far as my experience (training and grading), that wasn't true. There were some piles of very strong essays and some piles of essays that received lower scores. There wasn't necessarily every score in every pile.