It’s that time of the year when historians and history teachers from across the country gather to grade the A.P. History exams. Over the past few years the grading process has become something of a public event as participants share the best of the worst responses to Free Response and DBQ questions. I know that this sharing is done by goodhearted people who ultimately care about education and the future of our discipline, but I have to admit that it leaves me feeling just a little depressed. Continue reading
No surprise that the most popular search engine query this week has to do with the AP US History Test which is scheduled for Friday. I’ve received a number of emails from students asking for tips on studying as well as from fellow teachers who are desperately trying to figure out what the DBQ will be. I can’t tell you how depressing all of this is. My students are visibly worried about the test and the more I focus on preparation the more anxious they become. Part of me hopes they do well and the other part honestly has no care in the world. It’s a strange position to be in, but one that reflects my deep antipathy for the AP curriculum.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been in a rat race to ensure that I finish the textbook before Friday. I’ve had to run rough shod over aspects of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, and the end of the Cold War to do it and it has made me depressed as hell. Oh and that last chapter on the post-9/11 period…well…make sure you peruse that chapter when you have some free time. Even worse, is the acknowledgment that the last major assessment of their experience in my classroom will be a standardized test that I had no hand in crafting. There is something fundamentally wrong with this picture. My two sections have been absent half the usual number since many of my students take more than one AP Test. This means that I am unable to bring the course to a close since the class doesn’t meet again after Friday. Yes, it will be nice to have two weeks with a reduced schedule, but this is no way to end what has been a very intense and challenging experience for many.
I’ve tried my best to introduce my students to the study of history as well as the complexity that is U.S. History. At the same time I’ve tried to impress upon them the extent and myriad ways in which the past continues to shape our individual perceptions and belief structure as well as the obligations we have as citizens. Unfortunately, they are not thinking about that; rather, they are sweating over a standardized test.
So, if you are student looking for tips for Friday, all I can say is do your best and remember that any assessment of the past year ought to be about more than Friday’s results. And, if you are a teacher looking for clues about the DBQ try to remember why we teach this subject.
This is my least favorite week of the entire school year.