Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Why You Should Grade AP American History Exams

Back in the day I did a five or six-year stint as a grader for Advanced Placement United States History exam.  At that time the AP exam reading was held at Trinity University in San Antonio.  American historians--both teachers and professors--had the run of the campus.  If we did not spend our nights cruising the Riverwalk listening to jazz and eating ice cream, or watching the Spurs win an NBA championship, we sat around a dorm-room lobby envisioning a book that would eventually become Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian's Vocation. The money was good, but I kept going because of the relationships. The cozy campus of Trinity University was eventually replaced by the sterility of a Louisville conference center and when that happened I stopped attending.

Having said that, I concur with everything Karen Johnson says about AP grading in her recent post at Religion in American History. Here is a taste: 

But beyond the money, the greatest benefit to me has been the educational value that I have taken away from the experience.  The AP grading offers a chance to collaborate with high school teachers who are often at the top of their game, a rare opportunity for those of us who teach at the college level.  I’ve come away with numerous  ideas and strategies for incorporating best practices into my classroom.  Next, the AP grading teaches you to use a rubric, and to use it well.  I have found that this makes my own grading, and crafting of assignments, much easier.  The grading also gives readers a chance to hear great historians speak.  This year Carol Sue Humphrey and Andrew Bacevich spoke to the readers.  Last year we heard from Gordon Wood.  In addition, going to the grading will give you a chance to see how the College Board rolls out its new test.  In the 2014-2015 school year, they are switching from a coverage model of testing U.S. history that requires students to know a little bit about everything to a more skills-based model that requires students to practice historical thinking.  This shift matches much of the discussion going on in history education circles, and the AP grading is a place where conversations about this trend abound.