Given last year’s travails with my AP Calculus AB students, and a bumpy start this year, I grew concerned we might not complete differential calculus before the winter break. Fortunately, we made it without a moment to spare wrapping up optimization and curve sketching the week before finals. More importantly, nearly twice as many students completed a true College Board AP Calculus AB course as last year. As the following comparisons show, students stepped up to the challenge completing the semester comparably to last year’s AP Calculus AB cohort.
Both cohorts took the same seventy-question, multiple-choice final exam covering the College Board defined AP Calculus AB curriculum. Students needed every minute to complete the test. One of my strongest students finished last. When I asked how they did, their answer was “it was too long.” At the same time, I designed it to challenge all of my students. More importantly, it serves as yet another means to acclimate them to the challenge of the AP Exam at the end of the course. Ironically, this same student commented in a survey that they wanted to ace the AP Exam.
The 2012 cohort performed better than I expected, as twice the number of students took the course as last year, where 60% of students opted for a less rigorous non-AP calculus course.
When examining various methods of defining performance for my students, this year’s cohort continues to perform on par with last years’, if not better on some metrics. Each of the following figures takes into account student performance for the entire semester, which is computed as a weighted average where assessments comprise 60% and assignments 40%. The first figure illustrates using raw percentages, akin to a traditional grade scale. The second uses my rating scale where each bin consists of a 15% span (e.g. Advanced consists of scores from 85-100%). The third figure ascribes letter grades to the ratings following my grading scale where the primary change is the name assigned to the bin (e.g. Advanced becomes an A) coupled with upward adjustments made for students who are within striking range of the next grade level. Given the uncertainty in assessments, I believe it is only fair to adjust upwards when a student is within two- to three-percentage points of a cut score.