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AP Literature Team Responds to Editorial

AP Literature Team

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The AP Literature and Composition course is a specialized course focusing on the analysis of English Literature.  The test that accompanies this class is ranked as one of the most challenging AP tests, with a national pass rate of 52.6% in 2017, with only 6.8% of test-takers receiving a score of 5.  This course is challenging because the exam is skills-based. While some AP courses primarily require acquiring knowledge of facts or data, AP Literature expects students to develop skills in literary analysis and writing that can transcend a variety of texts from an expansive literary canon.

Despite the low national pass rate on this exam, at SJHHS, the AP Lit team is proud to share that our pass rate was 85% in 2017, well above the national average. This is also one of the highest pass rates in our school district.
Some students feel that their desired grade in AP Literature is unattainable, and, therefore, they do not feel that they can be successful in this course.  The SPACE framework seeks to dispel the myth that there is only one path to success. We agree that there is more than one way to define success. Is the only acceptable grade in AP Literature an A?  Does success mean only straight A’s on a transcript? By that standard, we would be forced to define a good many people as “unsuccessful.”

That is not to say that achieving an A is impossible.  The foundation of our educational philosophies lies in the belief that all students can learn, can improve, and can achieve their desired grade.  Because of the nature of this course, it is possible that achieving that A will take more work, or a different approach to work, than that to which many students are accustomed.

While it’s discouraging to learn so few students believe their desired grade is attainable, we hope students are aware of English teachers’ desire for genuine reflection. On the AP Literature team, in the interest of being fair and equitable to students, we grade norm essays and discuss most-missed questions on every assessment, often allowing multiple responses or curving tests.  At the end of each year, we reflect on student grades and progress on learning objectives and make changes based on students’ needs. We also make changes based on recommendations from College Board and score results from the AP exam. Additionally, we make note of student concerns and suggestions. Students, to be clear: we hear you.

We agree that full engagement from students is strongly related to positive teacher-student relationships.  We cherish our relationships with our students: that’s why we chose this profession (or this profession/calling chose us).  There is nothing like coming alongside a student to help them overcome what they once thought insurmountable. At the end of the day, we have to face the reality that caring about our students doesn’t mean giving them all A’s.  Caring about our students is about equipping them with the tools they need to accomplish what they may never have thought possible and encouraging them not to lose hope in the face of difficulty.

AP Literature may not be the right path for everyone. There is more than one path to success.  However, if you choose to persevere through this journey with us, we look forward to working alongside you.  We cannot guarantee acceptance in an Ivy League, but in AP Literature, we think you’ll learn a great deal about yourself and your character, not just from the literature that we read, but from your grit in how you face the challenge.

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