Beginning last week, the district has started to administer two common assessments per year in many AP classes with hopes to prepare students for the spring AP exams.
These common assessments, or CAs, differ from the past curriculum-based assessments because the new tests are aligned with AP curriculum and style, not state-based curriculum.
“It is essentially another means of collecting data to see what do (teachers) need to go back on and reteach,” Academic Associate Principal Ashley Alloway said. “They are all released test questions, so they are not teacher-written questions, but are actually questions that have been used on old AP exams and are going to tell us if our kids are ready for the rigor of this test.”
These tests will continue into the future so students will have a better chance at passing the AP exam by seeing their strengths and relearning concepts.
“This will give us an earlier indication of how the students are doing,” Alloway said. “(The teachers can think) ‘My students didn’t do well here, these are the things I need to go back on to make sure that I spiral back into my teaching between now and my next assessment.’”
AP teachers said they hope students will prepare beforehand for the new CAs and learn from their results so they can perform to their best during the actual AP exam in the spring.
“With all testing, you can see where you are at and what gaps need to be filled,” biology teacher Joseph Kelly said. “So if you are terrible at one section and you can clearly see that on the test, then that is going to help students see where they need to hone in when studying for the real AP test.”
However, junior Colby Jones, who is taking four assessments, said these tests are adding unnecessary stress to students, especially because they count as test grades.
“There are teachers in the district that do things differently than teachers at Mansfield, Lakeridge, etc., and for the kids who have not learned things the same way, (the district tests) are punishing them by forcing them to follow a standard that the teacher did not teach them,” Jones said. “So (the tests are) punishing the students for the shortcomings of a teacher.”
Some AP teachers said the main idea behind the tests is to benefit the teacher and student by tracking growth.
“It lets students know where they are in the progress of the AP tests,” chemistry teacher Corey Nieman said. “If a teacher is following the district framework, (which) we are suppose to follow, then the students should be prepared.”
Similarly, junior Ethan Nguyen said although he might be more stressed out because of the CAs, the benefits outweigh this.
“It will motivate me to be more effective in my time management, and it will force me to know the material better,” he said. “A lot of times I feel compelled to do the bare minimum by getting the material I only need for the test, but with the curriculum assessment it is over the beginning of the year, so it forces me to go back.”