AP World History Reading – Day 1

Good morning! So it’s just about 7 am here in Salt Lake, and I’m getting ready to head on over for breakfast on the first day of the Reading. Usually the way the first day goes is that we meet with the Chief Reader, who talks a bit about how the Reading has gone in the past, and there’s always a bit where the CR talks about how big the APWH course has gotten. Last year we had about 1000 teachers (high school, college, university). it will be interesting to see how many we have this year. I think it may be about the same, but we’ll see. I’m also interested to see about how many students took the exam. Last year I think it was something like 175,000 students. So consider this: on the AP World History exam, students have three essays they have to write. That means that last year there were 525,000 essays to score. Now, that’s actually NOT an accurate number, as many students do not even attempt the last essay. Some students don’t even attempt any essay. One year I got a booklet where the seal had not even been broken.

After we meet with the CR, we then break into what we call our “yurts”. (We are world historians, after all). A yurt usually consists of a few tables of readers. At each table is about 8 or 9 readers, and a table leader. The table leader is our manager, so to speak, who will guide us through the scoring process over the next week.

So we get samples of essays that have been scored and we walk through the rubric. There’s a generic rubric that the College Board uses (and that I use to score my student essays), and when we get to the Reading, that generic rubric has been tweaked based on how the sample students have been writing the essays. We get a chance to read through essays that have already been scored, and talk about why something earned a particular point (like why did this essay earn thesis point when that essay did not). We then are given more sample essays without an annotations and we score those, along with the person sitting next to us, who becomes our reading partner. We don’t usually go “live” (meaning into our own, not yet graded folders) until later in the day. And even then, we share with our reading partner and discuss why we scored a particular essay the way we did. It’s like learning to ride a bike, almost – first you’re on the tricycle, then you’ve got a 2 wheeler with training wheels, and then you are riding along with your dad behind you, and then you’re let go and suddenly you’re riding (scoring) on your own!

Even then your essays are being scrutinized, though, because the College Board is really concerned about accuracy – they want the Readers to stick to the rubric like super glue. They are trying to make sure that the student whose essay is read first on day one and the student whose essay is read last on day 7 get the same treatment. it’s a complicated business, but it’s so important, especially because the students have worked so hard all year long and deserve to have their essay be given due attention.

This year I am scoring the comparison essay. That’s the same type of essay I scored last year. So this year’s question is

Compare demographic and environmental effects of the Columbian Exchange on the Americas with the Columbian Exchange’s demographic and environmental effects on ONE of the following regions between 1492 and 1750.
Africa, Asia, Europe.

I am hoping that more students will have actually attempted this essay this year. I think that they know about this topic. Or they darn well should!! This isn’t a topic like “racial ideologies”, or even “national identities”, which the students had trouble with in years past. It’s straightforward. We’ll see.

I won’t be able to give specifics about the essays that I read, because of confidentiality, but I will try to keep you posted on how things are going. I am looking forward to seeing some decent attempts from students!


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