|Davidson Hosts AP Summer Institute
June 19, 2008
Contact: Bill Giduz
by Rachel Andoga
High school students may think that the Advanced Placement (AP) Program ends when they turn in their exams at the end of a school year. But for AP faculty and administrators, the work to prepare for the next school year is just beginning. This summer, one of the sites for the AP Program’s important activities will be Davidson College, which will host the AP Summer Institute training program for secondary school teachers June 22-27.
The AP Program, which is administered by The College Board, enables students to engage in college-level studies in 22 subject areas in high school. Students who perform well on their AP exams may earn credit or advanced placement in courses at colleges they attend. Student participation in the AP Program has become increasingly widespread since the program began in 1955. More than 3,600 colleges and universities worldwide now recognize AP credits, including more than 90 percent of U.S. and Canadian colleges and universities.
Davidson’s AP Summer Institute will offer instruction to 66 secondary school teachers of economics, U.S. history, psychology, physics and calculus. They will study strategies for teaching AP classes, and innovative techniques to help students prepare for AP exams. Details for this year’s Institute can be found here.
Davidson is a natural host for the institute based on a long history of involvement and leadership in the program by Davidson faculty members. More than seven Davidson professors regularly lend their expertise to the AP program as graders and test developers.
Larry Cain, professor of physics, and Malcolm Campbell, professor of biology, recently participated in the redesign of the AP exams in those subject areas. A full story regarding their work with the College Board can be found here.
Dolan Professor of Mathematics Ben Klein began grading AP exams in 1991 at the recommendation of departmental colleague Professor Stephen Davis, who began his own work with the program in the late 1980s. Klein has since held a variety of responsibilities in the AP reading (grading) process, and has served on the Test Development Committee. Davis currently chairs the calculus Test Development Committee. Ruth Ault, Maddrey Professor of Psychology, has acted as a reader for four years and as a table reader for the last six.
Clark Ross, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dean of Faculty, and Johnston Professor of Economics, also has a lengthy, distinguished history of service to AP. Ross served on the AP Test Development Committee, and helped write the economics exam. He also served as chief faculty consultant in economics from 1998 until 2005.
Klein noted, “I am not aware of any other school that has as much involvement in the AP calculus program as Davidson, and the overall school involvement must be near the top in the nation.”
Both Klein and Ross will serve in leadership roles at the June institute at Davidson. Klein will assist in teaching the calculus workshop, and Ross will lead the economics workshop. “Working with the AP is a very rich experience,” Ross said.
What motivates professors to continue their volunteer service to AP year after year? Klein said he enjoys a “truly high quality program,” and the unique opportunity to interact with secondary school teachers. “There are few things that provide educators with that level and scope of camaraderie,” he said. “The people are first rate, committed to education, and love mathematics. What more could you ask for?”
Ault acknowledged that the grading can be tiring, but she thoroughly enjoys sharing ideas with other educators. She said, “Sometimes it’s just renewing my enthusiasm for teaching, and sometimes it’s a very specific idea about how to teach a particular concept.
“Participating in this kind of academic community assures that I can keep up to date,” Ault added. “Meeting other teachers who have the same focus of interest as I do helps me learn about new ideas in the field that I should incorporate into my own class.” Courses at Davidson’s AP Institute will be taught by College Board-approved consultants who are known in their field for excellence in the AP Program. “They’re really amazing educators in their field,” said Suzanne Grzeszczak, organizer and administrator for the institute. “They seem on the cutting edge of classroom innovation. It’s a great gift for Davidson to have this opportunity to prepare these teachers to return to their classrooms to teach students for the AP.”
The visiting consultants are: Peggy Bertrand, an AP physics teacher from Oak Ridge High School in Oak Ridge, Tenn.; Hugh Canterbury, a psychology teacher at South Forsyth High School in Cumming, Ga.; Bill Compton, a calculus teacher with 23 years of experience teaching AP Calculus; and Linda Murdock, a history teacher at Charlotte Latin School in Charlotte, N.C.
Davidson students benefit from involvement with the AP program as much as faculty do. Many students enroll at Davidson with AP credit (last year, about 70% of first-year students had one or more credits), and good performance in high school AP classes and similarly advanced curricula is viewed by the admission office as the most likely indicator that a student is capable of success in Davidson classes.
Davidson students can use their AP credits in a variety of ways to customize their college experience. Klein offered a personal anecdote. “My younger son came to Davidson with a bundle of AP credits,” he recalled. “Then, during his sophomore year, he got injured playing soccer and had to drop a couple of courses. Those AP credits were like money in the bank—he didn’t have to go to summer school or worry about graduating late.”
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,700 students. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college. Davidson awards B.A. or B.S. degrees in 20 different majors; students also may develop an interdisciplinary major through the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies.
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