In the summer of 2011, I joined a couple hundred high school and college French teachers to come to Cincinnati to score AP French exams. For seven days in June, teachers work closely together to fairly, consistently, and accurately evaluate what students have written and recorded for the free-response sections of the AP exam. Since that first year, I have touted the experience to my colleagues as an opportunity for incredibly rewarding networking and growth and an invaluable week to anyone who is an AP teacher. In this post, I share with a broader audience why this experience has been so important to me and close with a list of my top ten reasons you should consider it.
I applied to be a “Reader” (the official title) a couple of years before I was invited to participate. Teachers may submit application materials online. They are invited to be readers in order to fill open positions each year. While I did not receive my initial invitation until April the first year, the invitations I received in each of the subsequent years arrived early in the spring semester with plenty of time to make summer plans.
“Reader” is a bit of a misnomer, because while some teachers are reading written responses, my first year, and every year thereafter, I have actually been a listener. I have been tasked with listening to and scoring recorded responses. The 2011 invitation was perfect timing. The reading that year was to score the final administration of the old version of the French exam. (old version = verb and function word fill-ins + essay + picture sequence + split/pane comparison ). Consequently I got to be there for the adieu to the old standard and for all the discussion of the new course and new exam. (new = 6 themes with contexts, much more holistic language approach, task-oriented free-response–email reply + persuasive essay + simulated conversation + cultural comparison). There were nightly presentations by the very people who had worked tirelessly to develop the new course, had created new materials and would be editing the exam in its new format. In addition to these formal sessions, there were countless discussions in anticipation of how we, as teachers, were going to prepare our students the following year.
When I returned my second year, I was fortunate to be part of the very first reading of the new exam. As such, I got to participate in the training and realignment, and sometimes heated debate, as we transitioned from scoring discrete-point language usage to evaluating more holistically and judging student performance at accomplishing the task. The Spanish readers are making this transition this year.
Top Ten Reasons to Become an AP Reader
10. Although perhaps not appealing to some, I have enjoyed the opportunity to room with a colleague. You can actually SPEAK your language for an entire week. Those in need of more privacy can have single rooms, although they do have to pay for this.
9. Speaking of expenses, your transportation (mileage reimbursed or air travel arranged through a dedicated website), your meals (3 square per day plus two snack breaks), and one half of a double-occupancy room in a nice hotel are all covered. You will be out Nothing. Rien. Nada. Nichts. Niente.
8. I chose those languages because the French, Spanish, German and Italian readers are all on site at the same time, so if you want to have some multilingual interactions, this is about as good as it gets. On any given day, I can have breakfast with the Germans, lunch with the Spanish and dinner with the Italians.
7. As a teacher of an AP course, you are probably the only person in your school teaching your curriculum. There are other AP teachers with whom you may commiserate and celebrate, but they only share your wins and woes tangentially. At the reading, you are surrounded by more people in the exact same situation than at any other time in your career.
6. As a reader, you learn to internalize the grading rubric. Your ability to evaluate your own students becomes rock solid because you’ve helped grade a global sample and have been trained to assign grades fairly, consistently and accurately. While you may be more or less stringent back at home, you know for a fact just what it takes to “get a 5″.
5. Not only are you able to grade your own students’ work with confidence, but the confidence and experience give a new authority when you assign grades in your AP classes. The students and their parents know that YOU know what it takes to “get a 5″, and they believe you when you say “this is a 4″.
4. During the reading you work closely with a “table leader” and collaborate with others at your “table”. It is one of the few times in my career when I have ever been able to ask a colleague what score he/she would assign and fully trust the response. It is also one of the few times you can share an impressive, original or amusing response with someone who will get it.
3. In the evenings, after you’ve worked during the day, you get to socialize with people from all over the country, some even from other countries, who all speak your language AND all teach your language. It isn’t all work, work, work. I’ve been to Reds baseball games, listened to live music, been to an art exhibit and a museum, along with various restaurants and cafés. These outings have been at my own expense, but are part of social networking that has forged close, cherished ties. We enjoy seeing each other in June.
2. The College Board makes sure to provide information, updates, workshops and opportunities. The readers get access to this first. They also engage the readers for feedback during the week. There is at least one professional development night and one open forum while you are at the reading. Both of these are “language” specific. I have had face-to-face access with College Board officials and exam development team members every year.
1. You get paid. There is a very respectable honorarium that goes along with the honor of being chosen to be an AP reader. Usually professional development costs you or your school a bit of money, or at best, is free. Becoming an AP reader was the first time I ever got paid to become a better teacher, interact with amazing colleagues, learn and have fun all while contributing in an important way to a capstone event in the lives of my students.
If you want more info or want to apply, check out this page on AP Central.