For the last week, I have been at the Advanced Placement (AP) reading for the CS Principles course in Kansas City, part of a few hundred readers that evaluate the performance tasks submitted by students. It’s an incredible experience in many ways!
For those new to the CS Principles course, it is a breadth-first introduction to computer science emphasizing creativity and collaboration across topics like data, the internet, and the impact of technology in addition to programming. With a goal of increasing access to and success in computer science for underrepresented students, the course is an engaging introduction to computing that reached almost 75,000 students in the 2017-18 academic year.
But 75,000 students means 150,000 performance tasks to grade! Each student submits a programming project and write-up, the Create performance task, and a computational artifact and write-up on a computing innovation, the Explore performance task. Along with 100+ readers in Kansas City and hundreds more grading tasks at home, we’ve been able to see the incredible impact this course has had on students.
The AP reading process includes training on student samples so that readers can grade the tasks using a rubric as consistently as possible. After that, the readers grade…and grade…and grade some more. We’re here in Kansas City grading performance tasks 8 hours a day – which can be grueling! – and then there are speakers and professional development options in the evening. But the readers are all very positive, excited about the work they see from students, and they play a key role in what makes this course a success.
As a college professor, I used to think grading was the worst part of teaching. However, this is different. There is a lot of value for someone who teaches the course in seeing the fine details of how the rubric is applied, common student misconceptions, and then using that knowledge to improve their instruction. And of course there’s the community. Where else besides the CSTA Annual Conference do you have the chance to connect with computer science teachers from across the country who are so passionate about bringing CS to all students?!
I leave Kansas City tomorrow in awe of the incredible work ethic as well as the care and consideration that teachers bring to the AP reading. The CS Principles course would not be the success it is without them.