|Local AP teachers spend a summer week grading papers|
|Written by Kate Sherrill|
|Thursday, 19 July 2012|
When schools close their doors in May, many teachers set their sights on a summer of rest and relaxation. Instead, two local high school language teachers accepted invitations to help grade thousands of College Board Advanced-Placement (AP) exams in Lexington, Kentucky earlier last month. Machines can score fill-in-the-bubble tests, but nothing replaces the human touch when it comes to essays.
"It's miraculous in this electronic age that these exams are still graded by real people reading handwritten work," says Oconee County High School AP English literature and composition teacher Lynne Ely. "There's really only one way to read an essay, and that's by a human being."
The exams measure critical reading, thinking and writing skills. Students earn college credit for these AP courses, so the exams carry a lot of weight. The readers take that responsibility very seriously.
"These exams are so important. So much is riding on the outcome. The first day of my first year, I was anguishing over each essay," says Ely who is a two-time College Board exam reader. "Once I got in the swing of it, it went faster."
The exams are graded using a rubric, which is a list of specific criteria. There were "anchor papers" to calibrate scores, which served as baseline examples and helped maintain consistency. A Chief Reader was also present at every table.
"While you're there, you are monitored for speed and accuracy," says North Oconee AP English language and composition teacher Stacey Casey. "That determines whether or not you are invited back the following year."
"They keep precise statistics on our reading and speed," says Ely.
There were a staggering 440,000 essays to be read and scored by 11,000 teachers.
This being her first year to participate, Casey says the sheer number of exams was the biggest surprise to her.
"There were 20 to 50 pallets stacked eight to 10 boxes high, filled with exams to be graded," says Casey. "The logistics were interesting to me—how they got them all done. Our group had to stay late two days, but they were all finished when we left on Friday."
Reading and scoring so many essays is grueling work, especially considering it was accomplished in only one week. But it is an honor to be invited to participate, and both Ely and Casey say they look forward to returning next year.
"I will definitely go back," Casey says. "It was a really good experience to be able to be around other educators of that caliber. It was good to talk to other teachers who do what I do—to pick their brains."
Teachers must apply for the reading program. The College Board then decides who will be part of the reading team for the week-long event.
Participants are compensated for their time, and work long hours to complete the scoring.
"They treated us as professionals," says Ely. "There were events most nights with speakers and discussions. We also had some time off in the evenings."
Ely says her favorite free-time activity was walking with some of the other teachers along the Ohio River, which was near their hotel.
The group of teachers selected for the annual AP Reading program is a combination of high school teachers and college professors. Since college credit is awarded to AP students who pass the exams, having college professors included helps ensure the exams are graded on a college level.
"It gives me a lot of confidence when I come back to work that what I am teaching really is college material," says Ely. "The fact that so many teachers would give up a week in
June to spend eight hours a day painstakingly reading essays speaks to the level of commitment among the educators."
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