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Posted on Sunday 9 June 2013 at 8:17 am

I'm Back - AP Grading Edition

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I spent the past week plus in Louisville, Kentucky grading for the AP US History exam. For those unfamiliar with the AP, it stands for Advanced Placement and is a high school program. Students in AP classes can take supposedly more rigorous versions of regular high school classes and then take a standard exam and many colleges will give class credit to students who score well enough on the test. This gets the kid both high school and college credit for the same class and gets them out of many introductory and basic college classes so they can get on to the harder and more interesting stuff. AP is offered in many subjects but the US History one is by far the biggest with the most number of kids taking it. The exams are always part multiple choice and part essay and someone has to grade all those essays. For the current US History exam (the format will be changed in 2015), every kid taking the test has to answer three essay questions and there were a few hundred thousand kids who took the test this year so there were a total of approximately 1.3 million essays to grade and I was one of the 1,200 college professors and AP high school teachers grading them. I personally did somewhere around 850 to 900 essays, I think. There are people who have been doing this for years who beat that amount every day.

The entire grading process is crazy. They have a standardized rubric to try to ensure all graders are scoring the same so that, for example, one person wouldn't give an essay a 3 and someone else give the same essay a 7 (essays are scored 0 to 9 with 9 as the best). Grading goes 8 to 5:30 for seven days straight with some breaks in there and is exhausting. Deciphering the handwriting of hundreds of kids scribbling away on a timed test isn't easy. Sometimes the answers are so bad you want to cry. Sometimes they are bad in hilarious ways and you crack up laughing. And every once in a while there is one that is so fantastic you want to cheer. No matter what, by the end of the day you are brain dead and stiff from sitting there grading so long.

The best part of going to the grading is that it is done at 5:30 every day. Typically with teaching and dissertating, there is no "Done." There is always work that could be done at anytime of any day so time off always feels a little guilty and there is always a voice saying "You should be working." With this, there is no such voice. Plus, Louisville is a great city to be in for this kind of thing. There are dozens of bars and restaurants, museums, a great river-front park, etc all in a small walking area around the hotel and convention center where they put us. The evenings are filled with drinking, eating, and chatting with people interested in history and going through much of the same struggles with teaching and research and the like. It is a chance to talk casually about all kinds of things. Last year was my first year doing this and going back this year had a bit of a summer camp feel to it as friends I made last year also returned and we could hang out again and check in with each others lives. There are lots of people there who have spouses and kids and the like and look on the grading as a vacation more than work and come just for the socializing.

All-in-all, it was an exhausting but enjoyable and well-paid trip. I'm very glad to be home, though. Last night, sleeping in my own bed, was absolutely wonderful. I need to unpack, go grocery shopping, and probably go for a long walk to work out some of the lingering stiffness today. That means I probably won't get around to the BBC Radio post until much later than usual, but I should still be able to get it up today. I didn't listen to much while I was gone so the listened to reviews won't be long but I've started skimming the schedule to this week and there's a ton of stuff coming up this next week that fits my interests so that will take a bit to sort through and type. I also owe comments and the like and need to read through the flist posts from while I was gone, but that might not happen today.
Feeling: drained
Exploring: Home! Yay Home!


donutsweeper at 3:00 pm on 09 June 2013 (UTC) (Link)
The handwriting issue has to be the worst.

My son took AP American History this year (daughter took it last year), considering his handwriting I seriously hope you didn't have to grade his! :)

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