AP Physics Reading: Day 2 (how does this whole thing work, anyway?)

Sunday, June 3

Every day has the same schedule with four sessions, two breaks, and lunch.

  • AM1: 8:00-10:00am
  • Break
  • AM2: 10:15-12:30pm
  • Lunch
  • PM1: 1:30-3:00pm
  • Break
  • PM2: 3:15-5:00pm

Physics has a long morning and a short afternoon, which suits us all very, very well. There are three other exams being graded at this site right now (European History, Computer Science, and Calculus), so all meals and breaks are staggered for crowd relief purposes. Start and stop times are sacred. When it’s time to start, you damn well better be in your seat and ready to go. When it’s time to stop, wherever you are, you put down your pencil and walk away. There’s one reader who is also a yoga instructor, and she’s been doing Hallway Yoga during breaks to help stretch you out after sitting for so long. The first few years I was too anxious to join, but last year my back started acting up, so I went for it. It is seriously the best thing ever and feels so amazing.

Each session starts with general announcements and any question-specific reminders about the rubric we are using to improve consistency over time. These first two days, every single test is back-read, which means you grade a folder and then give it to your table leader to be graded again as a double-check. This ensures as fair and consistent a grading process as possible for all students even though many different people grade each question. Not every single test is back-read all week, but all of them that are graded in the first few days are to align everyone’s process early. Once we’re all able to make good judgement calls, the back-reading goes down to a spot-check. When errors are that infrequent, random spot checking does as good a job (and sometimes better!) as checking each one individual at a significantly lower time-cost. Thanks, statistics!

After announcements we get back to work. If we were in the middle of a folder, we start back up. If we just finished one the end of the last session, we go get a new one. All the tests are in folders and all the folders are in boxes, and there is a HUGE team of support staff who ferries around all the boxes from room to room, checks the scoring sheets for bubbling errors, makes sure everything is still in order, and generally keeps us all organized and in line so we can focus on grading. As with most administrative positions, without these folks, we’d be hosed. When they find my mistakes, I make sure to always thank them for the double check and let them know I appreciate the help. It’s usually something like writing a number in and either forgetting to bubble in next to it or bubbling in a different number.

So, once I have a folder in front of me, I have to indicate that I am the responsible person for this question on these exams by writing my reader number and name in a few different places. Then I flop open the top test booklet to page 11 and get to scoring. Once done, you give the completed folder to the table leader for back-reading, mark a tally on the tally sheet, and go snag another folder. Then you do that for the entire session. It’s not an easy job. At all. But it’s really cool and you learn a lot about how students process information and communicate their version of physics. You see the same mistakes over and over and over again and get insight into novice thinking. THEN you know to make adjustments to your curriculum to address that directly. There’s a reason I’m coming back for my fourth year. It’s 100% worth it. In the most selfish way possible.

The actual being a cog in the machine of a standardized testing giant? I have some major personal conflicts about that business. I’m also not alone in that as an AP Reader. I’ve had more than one conversation on that topic in the last four years. I’ll write more on that tomorrow. Tonight? I’m going to go see Solo at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema where you sit in a super comfy chair and literally get waited on during the movie. After that, I’ll probably head to the Physics Lounge that is literally a room full of nerds being nerds at each other late into the evening WITH SNACKS PROVIDED. The actual reading of the exams? Exhausting. Grueling. Challenging. Kinda sucks. Everything else about this week? Badass!

Alamo

 

 

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