AP Situation – 1

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30 thoughts on “AP Situation – 1”

      1. Search on the forum “The New AP Exam.”

        I’d love to hear what others think of the exam and hear from those of you giving the exam this year. I hear from the grammar-loving dept. head at the high school that “the AP exam is 5xs harder than the teacher certification test” and “even my native Spanish speaker doesn’t pass the test.” I can understand those comments since it must be pretty hard to get students to pass a communicative exam by teaching grammar and using little CI. Now that the AP exam is full of higher-level thinking questions, then even a fluent speaker with low critical thinking skills may not pass. The 2014 Course Description claims that the test measures intermediate to pre-advanced.

        1. I was sorry to see your description of the critical thinking emphasis on this test instead of language comprehension and fluency. I have not read the Chinese AP yet, but I’ve been to a training including description of the sections of the test. I thought that the tasks asked for were very CI-friendly and some sounded like what Ben has said that DPS uses: ex, see pictures and create a story describing them with transition words, beginning, middle, and end. The Chinese exam has a culture section in which I think the students prepare a “culture” topic and speak about it for 4 minutes (or something like that). The Chinese exam is typed, which is a HUGE help to non-native Chinese speakers. Handwriting it would be a different situation altogether – a test of handwriting instead of language if it were.

          So I guess I’ve been naively optimistic that whatever scores well-trained CI kids can get are as high as a truly non-native speaker can get. A local high school giving the AP exam had 2 or 3 heritage speakers get 5s and a totally misplaced 3rd year student get a 3. I was amazed to learn she got a 3… I saw her a few days before the exam in class, and what she could understand and say made me think she’d get a 1 or 2 at best.

          1. Just to make it clear – those kids weren’t in my class, and they weren’t at all CI classes. They were at a high school a lot of my 8th graders feed into. I visited for a day.

          2. The Russian AP developed separately from all the others, and is truly proficiency-based. (College Board is still playing a game with the Russian AP, claiming that it’s too expensive to take on, even as we’ve been administering it for over ten years.) College Board encouraged the Chinese version to emulate what the Russian AP was doing. I won’t say that the Russian AP is easy, but strong CI kids can typically get at minimum a 3. My students have been getting 4s or 5s these last few years. (The kids who earned fives with me started in middle school with Russian, so they had more than the usual high school regimen.) The test requires students to perform at the Intermediate Mid level in all areas to get a 5. Speaking grades are based on a real OPI (on the phone). I think it is reasonable for a score of five to be an Intermediate Mid; these are college credits we’re talking about, and that level score should be awarded to an unusual student. A 4 is still a respectable score, and a college-bound kid who’s paid attention for four years should be able to earn that if the test is truly proficiency-based and there has been ample input.

            It sounds as though other language AP exams are not quite measuring levels of proficiency in the same way as the Russian AP does. I’m hoping I’m not going to read that Brigitte’s kids all have to take the AP or that results will affect her program, especially if she’s not going to have control of the curriculum for four years.

            I don’t agree with the AP philosophy anyway. If they’re ready for college, kids should be there, rather than in high school. I’ll step off my soapbox now.

          3. Get up on that soapbox any time, Michele. That is a clear read and helps me understand this topic more, so thank you. Especially important to me is what you said here:

            …I don’t agree with the AP philosophy anyway…..

            This is exactly how I feel, without knowing exactly why. I don’t want to see Brigitte get into a tar baby situation here with her career. Can parents just coerce a superintendent like that – it’s not fair to her. The AP concept itself is a burn out track for teachers. It is not kind to them, except for those very rare ones who can stand the heat. I barely survived those years. I wish I hadn’t done it.

          4. Hi Michelle, my kids don’t HAVE to take this exam but it is expected. They start the program with the goal that they are going to take and pass (with a high grade) this exam. I don’t think that the results actually affect the program. However, what affects the program is the way it is being taught in the lower grades – as this has direct effect on enrollment. We usually start out with anywhere from 30-40 kids in level 1 and then end up with only a handful in the AP class (10 or so). According to my supervisor, retaining students in the program beyond level 3 was another reason that he is moving me to the upper levels. As of right now, about 2/3 drop German after level 3.
            I am really in a bind and – what looks like – a no-win situation here.

          5. Now that I read part two, I am so with you. It looks like worse than a no-win situation. I’m up front with my kids, because we have a bit of an on-line situation with AP, and the AP kids are in a class that has a mix from level 2 on up. Mostly what I do with them is make them read heavily all year, telling me about their reading and helping me with tasks (like creating Embedded Readings for the class). They read and listen, but not much else. As we all know, a solid diet of input is what people need for acquisition.

            The only thing I can think of (a really weird plan) is to offer to teach an AP “strand,” so that you would teach those in that strand at level 1, a mix of level 2-3-4 (?) and then the AP class. But that means five years with you. It’s a challenge, and you’d still need to sit down with those kids and say, basically, “It starts now. If you want to have a chance of getting a 3/4 on the AP, you have to be A+ students (jGR) from the beginning. The minute you know how to read, you will need to start finding a topic of your choice and immersing yourself in it in German. You’ll find songs you like, translate them, sing them all the time. You’ll get on German news…And then you have to sit down with the parents, both to get their support and to show them the profile of a 4 AP score in German and how many hours of CCI that requires. They have to understand that this is not going to be for every kid, and that there is no way that every kid could do it.

            That’s basically what I do, but I start kind of late, since my kids all have me and only a few do AP (2-8 in a year; a few others do IB…it’s a crazy thing).

            But if you can’t have them all four years (five??), then it’s not going to happen unless you’re teaching those kids an additional hour after school.

            I’m sorry to hear your story. People do NOT get acquisition.

        2. Eric said:

          …the 2014 Course Description claims that the test measures intermediate to pre-advanced….

          Thank you Eric. This bears on Brigitte’s situation. What are they thinking now? What allows the College Board to design the test at those ultra high levels? Krashen tells us, and I for one truly believe, that tens of thousands of input are necessary to get the engine of the deeper mind functioning at any kind of advanced level of proficiency. How does the CB reconcile that fact with the fact that a four year high school program maxes out at only 500 hours. How can they do that? Not only that, we in Denver Public Schools are certain that a four year TPRS/CI program can only get kids as high as that upper Intermediate Low range, and that is with an experienced teacher in a school where the kids get input over 90% of the time for four years, with time spent writing jacked up only in levels 3 and 4. What are they thinking? I’m at a loss for words.

          1. What are they thinking? Well, the student does not get her money back if she fails…but that is maybe totally unrelated.

  1. Ben, thank you so much for starting this discussion. I absolutely agree with everything you say but my hands are tied. I might have a fighting chance if I had the kids for a few consecutive years but that is not the case here. Will have to see how it all plays out. All I know is that it makes me feel a lot better knowing that I have all of you here to count on.

    1. Brigitte, you have to teach AP and you are getting kids who have not been through a CI program? If that is the case, then man, that’s tough. I’m so sorry. CI is good, but is it that good?

      We really do need a practical (unlike the ACTFL OPI) and relatively valid and reliable proficiency exam that we can give to our students at the beginning and/or end of the year. That way, we can finally show the world the ineffectiveness of non-CI classes. And people like Brigitte can look at her class of AP students who are probably Novice-Mids if they’ve been in a primarily grammar-taught program and people will understand that they are asking Brigitte to get those kids to jump an entire level (to Intermediate-Mid) in 1 year.

      I’ve assumed that even if proceeding through a 4 year CI program that given our low total instruction time, it’s probably impossible, except for the fastest processors (the CI version of the “4 percenters”), to succeed on the AP exam, unless they live abroad or do tons of extensive reading/listening for homework.

      1. Eric asked:

        …CI is good, but is it that good?….

        Absolutely not, it is not that good. Potentially, of course, it is, but it isn’t now.

        We all know how much time is lost from CI. How many of us were able to teach in alignment with the ACTFL 90% use Position Statement? Maybe two or three out of all of us. I certainly didn’t.

        We are going to have to go to the Chevalier de l’Ouest on this one, or Anne Matava, I think.

        But no, in no school or school district is CI working at levels that would meet what Brigitte is being asked to do.

    2. Well I’ll publish the second part of this now, Brigitte, so we can get that part of the discussion going. I don’t think you should be accepting this assignment, based on the above discussion. Can you still get out?

  2. Haha, you’re funny Ben. Yes, I can get out – out of a job. Unfortunately, I don’t have that option. I am lucky to have a job at all (German is not exactly a popular program around here) and I am the low woman on the totem pole. That’s why I asked for help from all of you – to make the best of a bad situation.
    I have already asked my supervisor to at least give me the level 4s next year, so I can have an extra year to work with these kids before they take the exam. However, if my non-CI colleague (with higher seniority) puts it down as a preference again, then I’m on the losing end once again. But I’m hopeful – I believe in the glass half-full approach to life. 🙂

    1. Leigh Anne Munoz

      Hi, Brigitte,

      Now, having read almost all of both entries “AP Situations 1/2” I must express my confidence that you can do it. I myself, testing at high intermediate on the Columbia University entrance exam for French, can and do have kids passing the French AP with 3s after only 3 years of French. My kids do minimal everything: homework, tests, writing, even sheltered reading. Mostly what we do is listening during Anne Matava stories and Practice AP activities from the Ladd workbook. I don’t know how they pass it. It is a complete mystery to me…

      Every year, I am flabbergasted at the results…

      However, and I repeat, it is not fun.

      Please forgive my lack of niceties and nuanced responses. Bluntness is just the best I can do right now!

      1. Leigh Anne Munoz

        I have a working theory. CI training gives students the confidence to take the test, the resilience to try to pass, and the tenacity to not give up during the actual test. They tend to persevere.

        These are the encouragements that I give my students who insist on taking the test.

        At least they have that advantage over non-CI students.

    2. Eric Spindler’s point about how you could end up losing your job as this person further drives away your base is important. I am encouraged by what Leigh Anne said, that she thinks that you can do it, at least get 3’s because, and I agree, that 3’s after only 3 years of CI are easy to get.

      Now, the way I am reading this nuanced situation is that you have been told that this colleague gets the levels he wants and you don’t? Is this a done deal? What classes must you teach next year? Just trying to get all the facts. I will email Robert on this – hopefully he gets in on this. We need his voice like right now. And Matava too.

      1. Yes, Ben, you read that correctly. He gets the levels he wants because he has seniority. So, this coming school year (2014/2015) I must teach levels AP, II, and III. I mentioned in the other thread, that my supervisor and the principal are aware that this is not an ideal situation and, apparently, they already spoke to this colleague about the not “choosing” level 4 on his preference sheet next year in order to stay consistent with the instruction for consecutive levels. So, hopefully, the following year I’ll be teaching levels III, IV, and AP. But I am worried about the base. It’s really a no-win situation, as my administrators are trying to please all sides here, it seems.

        1. This seniority thing is about exploitation in a way. How has this gentleman displayed seniority (leadership)?. Now what Eric Spindler said becomes more true. Even if you get those three upper levels, the kids who come to you in the future won’t have the auditory and reading foundation necessary for you to be successful. I emailed Robert and Anne and hopefully they respond.

          1. Would it a good idea to start building some wort of documented proof (maybe with freewrites) to be able to show what CI-trained students can do vs. non-CI-trained students so that when various groups come through the consequences of effectiveness/ineffectiveness can be shown?

          2. Yeah, that seems to be a huge problem: fewer kids would probably go on to upper levels, and those who do will have the mixed-up non-CI set of skills that need to be reworked in upper levels if Brigitte only gets them then. It seems like the earlier levels are more critical to this working.

          3. I agree that getting TCI instruction early is really important in more than one way. E.g. students form ideas of how SLA works and ideas about their language learning/acquisition capabilities. Having to transition to TCI after a few years of non-CI-based instruction often causes pushback. But in this case, the scheduling decisions may be out of Brigitte’s control.

  3. Thank you all so much for your condolences 😉
    It seems that there a few among us who (have to) teach AP – do you have any advice on the actual instructional piece?
    Leigh Ann, do you suggest I keep working with stories and get some kind of AP centered workbook. The kids whom I will get in this class in the fall will have had one year of CI-training with me when they were in 9th grade. that is something I pin my hopes on.
    I am hoping that Robert will chime in at some point, too. I think he teaches German and AP and I’m curious as to what his suggestions, if any, are.

    1. Me too. I appreciate the comments on this thread as this is something very new to me and I think, as Michele describes how she does it, might be a good way to appease some of those super high acheivers who *need* something to hang their hat on, beyond being able to communicate in the language decently. But I’ll not go out of my way to prep them for it here, if I don’t have to, for reasons that I hear from the AP veterans.

    2. Leigh Anne Munoz

      Hi, Brigitte,

      I do what I do because the AP students are willing and able to do them (TPRS stories and the practice French AP workbook). I spend the first part of the year just with stories. The AP Exam takers know that the practice workbooks exist, and they ask for the workbook when they feel the need.

      I am ending my fourth year with running the French AP program at my school. Every year is dramatically different from the previous year. Honestly, I let my AP students call their own shots, as long as they are sure about taking the test.

      One thing that is worth the effort for me is to know almost one year ahead, or as far in advance as possible, who is taking the test and who is not. I groom them to think of themselves at capable of passing it for a year or two, until I realize which students don’t have a chance. Then, I actively discourage them from taking the test. They didn’t trust me completely until this year. Now, they appreciate my honesty and like to hear the straight dope. This French AP preparation is a very active learning process for me, and in a way separate from the experience of learning to do lower-level TPRS. Every year gets better.

      In our district, AP classes are weighted higher than regular classes, so kids want these classes. Your dynamics are different, right? The kids you will get next year, do they like you more than the other teacher? 🙂

  4. Great advice, Leigh Anne, thanks so much!
    Actually, it seems that my situation is very similar to yours. In our district, the AP classes are also weighted higher than the regular classes.
    I am pretty sure that these kids like me (or at least my teaching style) better than the other teacher. They regularly come back to visit (and to complain, LOL). Plus, I am taking about 5 of them on my trip to Germany and Austria this summer. So, yes, we definitely have a rather strong bond – I had these kids when they were in 8th and 9th grade.
    When they were in 8th grade, I still taught them traditionally – because I hadn’t been enlightened then. The next year (their 9th grade), they were my guinea pigs and they took to CI like fish to water. That’s why I’m hopeful that they will be willing to cooperate once again. I just need to find a way to incorporate higher level CI with them, since this will be completely new territory for me.

  5. This is interesting to me because for the first time ever, I “have” two students taking AP Spanish this year. Online. Yup. And their schedules are so packed that neither of them has time to even sit in on Sp 4. These are exceptional students. They both skipped Level 2 and were moved ahead from Level 1 to Level 3. So….they were in totally CI classes in grades 8,9, 10 and 11….this year taking the AP Course, for what it is worth, online. They did not struggle with the course at all, and felt that the test was challenging, but doable. Obviously we won’t know their scores until July….but I am curious.

    I know that if they do well, more and more of my seniors will be encouraged to drop Level 4 and take the online AP, even though most of them are not the dedicated students that these two young people are. I can see that the district sees this as a viable, and money-saving option for our department when I retire in 2016.

    On one hand, I will joyfully celebrate my students’ accomplishments, and know that their CI background gave them the skills to take the independent study/online course and be successful on the test. On the other, we have lost a highly trained and competent CI teacher in the past few years and I can see the difference in the students’ abilities when they get to me in Levels 3 and 4.

    Recording the successful data may be the key in this data-obsessed time period. Getting admins and the community to be realistic has never been achievable. :o)

    with love,

  6. PS….for over a decade I have fought to keep our Level 4/5 program as “college prep” rather than college credit. I agree…if they want college credit, let them get it in college. But the times they are a’changin’ and I may have to change along with them.

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