Focusing on Performance: Teacher Training

This is my third post in a series of five summarizing the discussion that took place in a session on Expanding Access to AP at the AP Annual Conference in Washington DC in July 2010.  The two previous posts focused on RAISING AWARENESS OF YOUR AP PROGRAM and STRATEGIES FOR IDENTIFICATION OF AP STUDENTS respectively.  A discerning reader challenged me today that I have focused entirely on increasing student participation in AP programs while neglecting the very important component of student performance.

In my next two posts, I hope to better address how to improve student performance.  Since everyone knows that the primary factor affecting student performance is quality of teaching, this new post will focus on the very important aspect of TEACHER TRAINING.  It doesn’t make sense to raise awareness of your AP program and to identify a more diverse population of students to take AP classes if the teachers have not been prepared to educate that more diverse population.    

 The group assigned to discuss this topic in our session made a very good point that districts often focus their money, time, commitment, and priority on things like graduation rate, end of course testing, AYP, etc. and that Advanced Placement classes are not always on their radar.  However, when Advanced Placement is prioritized, many of those other factors will naturally improve.  This is why it’s important to raise the visibility of your AP program and to quantify your successes.  (See previous posts.) 

Here are some of the ideas the group generated for getting teachers trained and prepared to teach a diverse student population the challenging material of an AP course.

  • AP Summer Institutes are held throughout the country and throughout the summer, often on university campuses.  Dates and locations can be found under the professional development tab of AP Central.

 

  • Large districts can host their own AP summer institutes.  By hosting the APSI locally, they might be able to save on teacher travel funds.  Also, by hosting their own APSI, the presenter might be able to tailor their instruction to the particular needs and issues that might pertain to their particular district.

 

  • The College Board also offers regional one day and two day conferences throughout the country and throughout the school year. 

 

  • There are also on-line workshops available through the College Board that can save district travel funds and allow teachers in remote locations to participate in professional development.

 

  • The College Board also hosts online Electronic Discussion Groups that form virtual online communities of AP teachers to discuss issues particular to their subject area or area of interest.  For example, there are discussion groups devoted to AP in small schools or to expanding equity and access.  Teachers and other educational professionals can register for these EDG through AP Central.

 

  • Some districts choose to educate their entire faculty on strategies to prepare more students to be successful at the AP level.  Again, the College Board can serve as a source of training.

 

  • AP teachers often reach out to others in their geographic area to form AP teacher support groups.  A great example of this is the Houston Area Calculus Teachers’ organization, hosted by the University of Houston.  See www.houstonact.org

 

  • The AP reading provides a wonderful opportunity for teachers to meet with and learn from other AP teachers.  As soon as teachers have at least three years of AP experience under their belts, they should go to AP Central and sign up to become a reader.

 

  • When our district hosts student prep sessions on Saturdays using experienced AP teachers as presenters, we invite less experienced or future AP teachers to attend the sessions alongside the students so that they can better learn the material and instructional strategies.

 

  • Our district will soon host our first AP Teachers’ Meet-Up with a neighboring district in order to share effective teaching materials and strategies and to brainstorm solutions to common problems. 

 

I am still hoping to get some comments and further suggestions from those of you out in my reading audience. My purpose in writing thig blog is to try to bring about discussion and sharing of best practices.  Any comments and constructive criticism will be gratefully received.   Tomorrow’s blog posting will focus on STUDENT SUPPORT.  Thanks for reading!

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