Guest post by Veronica “Voni” Perrine
It was the fall of my first year as an assistant principal at Middletown High School in Middletown, DE. My principal handed me the Advanced Placement coordinator’s manual and informed me that I was the new coordinator. The thought of being the AP coordinator was, to be honest, a little daunting. I was now in charge of ensuring that students had rigorous courses taught by skilled teachers who would lead these students to take the AP exam—an exam with scores that could influence their future educational opportunities.
Thankfully, my journey with the AP program has been incredible, and I’ve learned many lessons along the way about how to make Advanced Placement a meaningful student learning experience.
How do you know if your kids have AP potential? And how do you get them interested in taking AP courses? If students are motivated and not afraid to work, they have potential. To find out “officially” if they have potential, you can use their scores from the PSAT test as a predictor. In addition, you can recruit students by having the AP teachers visit the honors classes, give a course overview, and answer any questions about the program. Our teachers encourage students to register for specific AP courses and make recommendations to our guidance counselors. We do not, however, require a teacher recommendation or a specific GPA for enrollment.
Another idea is to invite students and parents to an information session. At our annual AP information night, teachers are on hand to provide course overviews, discuss syllabi, and share textbooks and class artifacts. Guests also have the opportunity to meet current AP students and ask them questions about the program. All of these recruitment tools have proven to be successful and, I believe, have helped boost our AP enrollment.
The master schedule likely has you considering various options for how and when to offer AP classes. Should you offer them every day all year long, every other day all year, or as a semester block? While the research says semester versus yearlong has little effect on test results, I am a firm believer that AP courses should run yearlong. Students need time to digest all the material and develop the skills necessary to be successful on the exam.
Our AP courses run yearlong. Some meet every day; others every other day. This gives students the entire school year to read, analyze, practice, draw, and experiment. We run a 90-minute four-by-four block master schedule; but, as lead scheduler, I take the extra effort to run two blocks of A/B days for our AP classes that don’t meet every day. Students need and deserve that time. (Learn more about scheduling in a related blog post, “Mastering the Master Schedule,” by fellow assistant principal Ashanti Bryant Foster.)
Gaining Course Approval and Teacher Training
Another piece of the AP puzzle is gaining course approval. Course syllabi need to be submitted on the College Board’s AP Central website and then approved by your school’s AP coordinator. Once approved at the local level, it is automatically submitted to College Board, whose trained professionals will carefully review it and make suggestions, if needed. If College Board rejects a syllabus for the second time, they will assign your teacher a mentor to help align the syllabus to their standards.
But I don’t sweat this approval process. Our AP teachers know the course expectations because of the superb training they receive at AP Institutes, a professional development opportunity that occurs on various college campuses. I strongly recommend my teachers attend this training, even though it’s not mandatory to teach an AP class. Led by College Board-endorsed consultants, AP Institutes provide participants access to the content and resources to enhance their teaching of subject specific AP courses. Attending the institute also gives teachers the opportunity to network with peers throughout the world.
I’ve included a copy of my personal “AP to-do list,” which I update each year. It helps me organize by AP responsibilities and plan my professional calendar.
To-do list for AP
- Review the AP coordinator’s planning calendar.
- Reserve rooms at the beginning of the year.
- Get an accommodation list.
- Review courses for audit in October.
- Mail the AP participation form and survey by November. 15.
- Give out bulletins, order forms, and driving permission slips in January. Up the ordering deadlines for forms and preadministration by at least two weeks.
- On the exam order spreadsheet, place exams in the same order as the online AP order form.
- Visit The College Board’s AP Central for materials, preadministration PowerPoints, etc.
- Check the deadline for ordering and downloading studio art submissions.
- Check conflicts before ordering tests (don’t order if you know it’s going to conflict—wait for late testing).
- Schedule and train proctors, and account for special accommodations.
- Complete preregistration per period the last week in April.
- Collect student packs, put them in alpha order, and distribute them for each test.
- Check in all testing materials when they arrive and sort in bins per test.
- Prepare Rooms:
- Pencil sharpener
- Pencils and pens
- Block out the day after the last day of testing for packing up and shipping back all exam materials.
- Order late exams—if needed—on the final day of testing.
- Send in payment by June 15 to avoid late fees.
What tips do you have for implementing an AP program? How do you get your staff and student body excited about the challenges of AP classes? What successes have you had with AP and what challenges have you encountered? I welcome your questions and comments below.
Veronica “Voni” Perrine is the assistant principal of Middletown High School in Middletown, DE, which serves 1,455 students in grades 9–12. She is the 2016 Delaware Assistant Principal of the Year.