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2015 June 19

2015 AP Exam Score Distributions

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:36
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Once again this year, I’m posting a pointer to 2015 AP Exam Score Distributions:

Total Registration has compiled the following scores from Tweets that the College Board’s head of AP, Trevor Packer, has been making during June. These are preliminary breakdowns that may change slightly as late exams are scored.

I don’t know why I provide this free advertising for Total Registration, as I have no connection with the company, and do not endorse their services.  If the College Board would collect Trevor’s comments themselves, I’d point that page.  The main interest in AP result distributions comes in May, when students are taking the tests, and July when the students get the results.

The official score distributions (still from 2014 as of this posting—new results don’t go up until the Fall) from the College board are at https://apscore.collegeboard.org/scores/about-ap-scores/score-distributions, at least until the College Board scrambles their web site again, which they do every couple of years, breaking all external links.  They post a separate PDF file for each exam, which makes comparison between exams more difficult (deliberately, I believe, since inter-exam comparison is not really a meaningful thing to do).  It is also difficult to get good historical data on how the exam scores have changed over time—College Board probably has it on their website somewhere, but finding stuff in their morass is not easy.

My most popular post this year was once again How many AP courses are too many?, with about 19 views per day.  (It has also come in second over the lifetime of the blog, behind 2011 AP Exam Score Distribution.) The question of how many AP courses seems to come up both in the fall, when students are choosing their schedules, and in the spring, when students are overwhelmed by how many AP courses they took.

There aren’t many exams graded yet (only 11 on the Total Registration site), so I don’t have much to say about the results.  I probably won’t be looking at the exam scores much this year, since my son is no longer eligible to take AP exams, having graduated from high school. I might look at some of the statistics for the AP computer science exam, as I have some interest in seeing whether there are any changes in the number of test takers.  The interesting results (about gender and geography) won’t come out until the fall reports.

2014 June 21

2014 AP Exam Score Distributions

Once again this year, I’m posting a pointer to 2014 AP Exam Score Distributions:

Total Registration has compiled the following scores from Tweets that the College Board’s head of AP, Trevor Packer, has been making during June. These are preliminary breakdowns that may change slightly as late exams are scored.

Disclaimer: I have no connection with the company Total Registration, and do not endorse their services.  If the College Board would collect Trevor’s comment themselves, I’d point that page.  The main interest in AP result distributions comes in May, when students are taking the tests, and July when the students get the results.

The official score distributions (still from 2013 as of this posting) from the College board are at https://apscore.collegeboard.org/scores/about-ap-scores/score-distributions, at least until the College Board scrambles their web site again, which they do every couple of years, breaking all external links.  They post a separate PDF file for each exam, which makes comparison between exams more difficult (deliberately, I believe, since inter-exam comparison is not really a meaningful thing to do).  It is also difficult to get good historical data on how the exam scores have changed over time—College Board probably has it on their website somewhere, but finding stuff in their morass is not easy.

Views for my 2011 AP distribution post show the May and July spikes.

Views for my 2011 AP distribution post show the May and July spikes. This has been my most-viewed blog post, which is a bit embarrassing, since it has little original content.

My 2013 AP distribution post has not been as popular, probably because of search engine placement at Google.

My 2013 AP distribution post has not been as popular, probably because of search engine placement at Google.

My most popular post this year was How many AP courses are too many?, with about 10 views per day.  (It has also come in third over the lifetime of the blog, behind 2011 AP Exam Score Distribution and Installing gnuplot—a nightmare.) The question of how many AP courses seems to come up both in the fall, when students are choosing their schedules, and in the spring, when students are overwhelmed by how many AP courses they took.

The one AP exam my son took this year was AP Chemistry, for which only 10.1% got a 5 this year and about 53% pass (3, 4, or 5). We won’t have his score for a while yet, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed for a 5.  He finished all the free-response questions, so he’s got a good shot at it.

The Computer Science A exam saw an increase of 33% in test takers, with about a 61% pass rate (3, 4, or 5). The exams scores were heavily bimodal, with peaks at scores of 4 and at 1.  I wonder whether the new AP CS courses that Google funded contributed more to the 4s or to the 1s. I also wonder whether the scores clustered by schools, with some schools doing a decent job of teaching Java syntax (most of what the AP CS exam covers, so far as I can tell) and some doing a terrible job, or whether the bimodal distribution is happening within classes also.  I suspect clustering by school is more prevalent. The bimodal distribution of scores was there in 2011, 2012, and 2013 also, so is not a new phenomenon.  (Calculus BC sees a similar bimodal distribution in past years—the 2014 distribution is not available yet.) Update 2014 July 13: all score distributions are now available, and Calculus BC is indeed very bimodal with 48.3% 5s, 16.8% 4s, 16.4% 3s, 5.2% 2s, then back up to 13.3% 1s. Calculus AB has a somewhat flatter distribution, but the same basic shape: 24.3% 5s, 16.7% 4s, 17.7% 3s, 10.8% 2s, and 30.5% 1s. Overall calculus scores are up this year.  The 30.5% 1s on Calculus AB indicates that a lot of unprepared students are taking that test.  Is this the “AP-for-everyone” meme’s fault?

Physics B scores were way down this year, and Physics C scores way up—maybe the good students are getting the message that if you want to go into physical sciences, calculus-based physics is much more valuable than algebra-based physics. I expect that the algebra-based physics scores will go up a bit next year when they roll out Physics 1 and Physics 2 in place of Physics B, but that the number of students taking the Physics 2 exam will drop a lot.  I don’t expect a big change in the number of Physics C exam takers—schools that are offering calculus-based physics will not be changing their offerings much just because the College Board wants to have more low-level exams.

AP Biology is still  seeing the nearly normal distribution of scores, with 6.5% 5s and 8.8% 1s, so there hasn’t been a return to the flatter distribution of scores seen before the 2013 test change.

As always, the “easy” AP exams see much poorer average scores than the “hard” ones, showing that self-selection of who takes the exams is much more effective for the harder exams. When College Board and the high-school rating systems push schools to offer AP, the schools generally start by offering the “easy” courses, and push students who are not prepared to take the exams.  As long as we have stupid ratings that look only at how many students are taking the exams, rather than at how many are passing, we’ll see large numbers of failed exams.

2013 July 4

AP Computer Science MOOC

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 12:14
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One approach that is being tried next year to get around the lack of CS instructors in high schools is the first AP Computer Science MOOC.

I have no idea how well this MOOC will work—online education for high schoolers has rather mixed results.  A number of home-schooled students are relying on college-level MOOCs for their instruction, but the drop-out rate is large and the amount of feedback they get usually too little for high school students (probably too little for college students also).

At least amplify.com got an experienced high-school AP CS teacher to teach the MOOC:

Rebecca Dovi has been teaching high school computer science for over 16 years.

She currently teaches in Hanover County, Virginia where she heads the computer science curriculum committee. She is among 10 secondary school teachers nationwide selected to pilot the new CS Principles course under development by College Board.

One of the other concerns with MOOCs, the lack of verifiable measures of student achievement, is alleviated with this course, as the AP CS A exam provides a fairly well-accepted means of final assessment.

My main concern would be whether students get enough feedback on their programming assignments to learn how to structure and document programs properly—something that is labor-intensive but essential for students to really learn the material properly.  Unfortunately, that is not something easily measured on a 3-hour test like the AP exam, so even decent results on the exam may not tell us whether the students are learning as much as they ought to.  (Of course, the same can be said of in-person AP CS courses—we have no guarantees that the students have learned anything not tested on the exam.)

I think that AP CS does make a good test case for high-school MOOCs—there are few places currently teaching computer programming in high school, and an online course is better than no course.  Aligning the MOOC to the AP test makes it more attractive to high school students and more likely to get high school credit than a random CS MOOC.

Because there are so few high schools teaching CS, the MOOC is not going to displace many teachers using better teaching techniques.

2012 August 29

Tests for 11th grade

Filed under: home school — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:48
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In Home schooling restarts, I listed the courses I thought my son would take this year.  In this post I’ll list the exams I think he’ll need.

test date register by comments
pSAT Oct 17 ? He needs to take pSAT this year for National Merit Scholarships, as he has a good chance of getting one.
SAT Oct 6, Nov 3, Dec 1, Jan 26, May 4, Jun 1 Sep 7, Oct 4, Nov 1, Dec 28, Apr 5, May2 I think that he should take an SAT test early this year, to find out how much more work he needs on SAT essays.  If necessary, he would take the SAT again in the Spring. SAT exams can’t be on the same day as SAT Subject tests, though multiple Subject tests can be the same day.
ACT Oct 27, Dec 8, Feb 9, Apr 13, Jun 8 Sep 21, Nov 2, Jan 11, Mar 8, May 3 ACT is not popular on the coasts, but I’ve heard that some students do better on the ACT than on the SAT (and vice versa).  If his SAT scores aren’t what we hope for, it may be worth doing an ACT test as well.
SAT Spanish with Listening Nov 3 Oct 4 It would probably be better for him to take this text next year, after one more Spanish class.  It is only offered in November.  He could take the SAT Spanish without listening on any other SAT day.
SAT World History Dec 1, Jun 1 Nov 1, May 2 This test may be a way to validate that his idiosyncratic “world history through history of science” covered an adequate amount of world history.  The SAT subject test should be less demanding than an AP test.
SAT Physics May 4, Jun 1 Apr 5, May 2 This test should be pretty easy, compared to the AP Physics C tests, but he’ll need to finish E&M first.  It will help with schools that require two STEM SAT Subject tests.
AP Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism May 14 March? We’ll have to find a school willing to administer this exam, as no high school in the county does Physics C.
AP Computer Science A May 8 March? He may be able to take this at Pacific Collegiate, as they have an AP computer science course.
AP Spanish Language May 8 March? This is scheduled for the same time slot as AP CS, so one of them has to be moved to the makeup slot.
AMC 12 Feb 5, Feb 20 Dec 13 He could take either or both AMC 12 tests this year.  (Taking both increases his chance of being invited to take the AIME test.)
AIME Mar 13?? If he does well on the AMC 12, he could be invited to take the AIME in mid March or early April—it doesn’t seem to have been scheduled yet.

Combining these tests with previous years’ he’ll have 5 AP test scores and 3–4 SAT Subject scores. We’ll have to check the list of colleges he might apply to, to see if any need 5 SAT Subject tests.

Other dates

He has several other scheduled activities this year that need to be planned around.

Activity date comments
Performance Jan 19, 20 Imaginary Invalid at Broadway Playhouse (WEST Ensemble Players)
Performance May 4, 5 The Outsiders at Broadway Playhouse, Saturday morning rehearsal may conflict with SAT. (WEST Ensemble Players)
Performances ? Dinosaur Prom Improv, probably every 6–8 weeks.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival May? Dates for trip not yet on AFE calendar.
County Science Fair Mar 9 If he decides to do science fair this year, he’ll have to register by Feb 15.
California State Science Fair Apr 29–30?? Schedule not posted yet. Only relevant if he decides to do science fair and gets chosen to represent the county at state.
International Science and Engineering Fair May 12–17 Only relevant if he decides to do science fair and gets chosen to represent the county at ISEF. Conflict with AP exams can be resolved by taking exam at ISEF.

2012 June 3

Planning ahead for tests

Filed under: home school — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:22
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I was entering some of next year’s events on my calendar for planning purposes (like reserving the classroom I’ll be teaching in for the fall—we use a seminar room that is not under the control of the Registrar, so faculty are responsible for using Google Calendar to reserve the room).

I was particularly interested in figuring out when my son would be taking various scheduled exams: pSAT/NMSQT, SAT, ACT, SAT Subject tests, AP tests, … I’ll probably have to make sure that the tests get ordered sufficiently far in advance, and those deadlines tend to sneak up on me.

I had no trouble finding when the ACT tests are for the next two years (ACT Registration : Test Dates in the U.S., U.S. Territories, and Canada), but the SAT schedule was a little harder to find.  As usual, the College Board search box was useless, but Google found the information on Test Dates & Deadlines, though those are still “anticipated dates”. It seems that the College Board is not willing to commit too strongly to a schedule. I think I want my son to take both an ACT test and an SAT test during the year. I’ve heard that the writing components are quite different, and I don’t know which one he’ll do better on. It might also be best to do these tests early in the year, before his schedule gets too packed. The end of April and beginning of May was crazy this year, so (other than the AP exams) we’d like to stay away from extras around then.

The 2013 AP Exam Dates seem more definite, which is too bad, because they’ve scheduled two of the tests my son was planning to take (Computer Science A and Spanish Language) for the same time slot. That means he’ll have to request a late testing slot to resolve the conflict (taking the CS exam on May 23).

The pSAT is also scheduled for the next 2 years, and this taking of the test that will be the one that counts for National Merit Scholarships. Unless he is very ill on the test dates, I expect he’ll do fairly well—he only missed one question on the pSAT this year.

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