Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in the Advanced Placement Statistics reading in Kansas City Over 600 educators convened to grade over 900,000 questions. Heading into the week, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into, but the Facebook groups dedicated to both readers and us newbies (“acorns”) were extremely helpful and generated buzz for the week. Also, the e-mails from Chief Reader Alan Rossman were helpful in getting us new folk acclimated. So, what is a week as an AP reader like?
- You’ll do a LOT of grading. I spent 4 days straight grading the same hypothesis test over and over. On other days, I graded the investiagtional task question. By my count, I graded a little short of 2,000 papers.
- The training and supports are outstanding. My partner, Cora, was fantasitc and my table partners kept me from going bonkers by Saturday.
- The organization requiredto move 150,000 test booklets efficiently around a conventional hall leaves me speechless.
But more than anything else, I meet dozens of people who share my same strange excitement over teaching Statistics. To one colleague, I described the experience as hanging out with the “Stats all-star team”. Everywhere you turned, there was an educator whose materials and ideas you had used and shared, and the opportunity to touch base with so many of them was fantastic. (aside: I think an opening exercise for all stats classes should be to utilize an activity authored by Floyd Bullard. Then, after the activity, have your students describe what they believe Floyd looks like. Then, sit back as you show them what Floyd really looks like.)
My take-away from the week applies not only to Stats, but to all teachers I coach and classes I encounter. Specifically, how can we utilize vetted performance tasks (like AP Stats questions) in classrooms as formative assessments? Jason Molesky has done a fantastic job with this through his “Frappys” on the iconic stats website Stats Monkey. The group of teachers I hung out with during the week are interested in using these problems and sharing papers and ideas online. But why not do this in more classes? What sort of problems are we giving in Geometry and Algebra which require students to reflect upon multiple standards? How often do we ask students to peer-assess their work, and train them to look at external rubrics?
The best stats teachers I know utilize past free-response problems throughout the course, and use student work to forward instruction. Wouldn’t it be great to have these resources for non-AP courses? My dream here would be to work with a group of teachers to build a bank of tasks for Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II, with rubrics to share. I know many states have “free response” questions already, and we work with students in my home district to prepare for those. But many of them are so clear-cut, so watered down in their expectation, that they are un-usuable as instructional tools. Seeing so many alternate and valid approaches to problems at last week’s reading speaks to the quality of the questions being asked. If you have any thoughts on written performance tasks, or want to work together on writing, shoot me a message here.
Thanks to all of my new friends from the reading for making the grade-fest an event I will look forward to next year, and to Brian, Andy, John, Nick and Dave for the great conversations!