When this district created its Advanced Learning for All program, educators knew the goal was to help students prepare for life after high school, like these high school students using laptops.

How technology supports our Advanced Learning for All initiative

When this district created its Advanced Learning for All program, educators knew the goal was to help students prepare for life after high school

Advanced Placement (AP) courses are one of the many ways students can challenge themselves and become college or career ready. Last year, our county implemented an Advanced Learning for All initiative to increase students’ readiness and overall preparation for life after they receive their high school diploma.

Our high school currently offers 19 AP courses. These courses help set the stage for students’ futures and give them opportunities to explore different subject areas they could consider pursuing after high school.

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In order for students to succeed in AP classes, it is important they have access to multiple resources and support from their teachers. As AP teachers, it is important for us to have resources available that help us understand our students’ strengths and areas where they need additional support.

Technology has helped us to remain one step ahead of the class. College Board’s classroom site, AP Classroom, is a great resource for teachers because we can test students on the content more often and immediately see results and how we need to adjust our instruction. Students benefit from the site as well. They are able to access assignments when not in school and they receive timely performance feedback.

Another resource our school uses in order for students to receive timely feedback is The Graide Network, which provides online grading support for student writing. Students practice the free response questions for the AP exam(s) throughout the school year and receive timely feedback on their writing so they can improve in anticipation for the exam in the spring. Having both of these technology resources helps teachers provide timely feedback which has been extremely beneficial in helping our students improve their AP® scores. Timely feedback in the AP® setting has helped in the following ways.

1. Providing a more personalized approach

Our county shifted to a block schedule, and students are now completing a yearlong course in one semester. Technology helps us to increase and maintain the rigor in our classrooms by assisting us with the grading process. Before the use of these technological platforms, teachers would assign less writing prompts and multiple-choice questions. The turnaround was much slower. With additional help, students are now able to gain more writing practice with sufficient time for remediation. It is no longer discouraging and frustrating to give all these practice exams to students because we are able to provide grades and feedback quickly. It makes it easier than ever for students to get weekly practice and preparation for the AP exam.

At the beginning of the school year for the physics class, students were scoring around 9.5 to 11 out of 12 for their weekly practice free response questions. When they get their feedback within three days, there is so much more time for them to specifically identify what they are struggling with and work to improve each week. In addition, timely feedback has helped us immensely with implementing the time consuming task of differentiation. We can now quickly group students based on their feedback so that those who are struggling can receive the additional help they need in order to be successful. For instance, we have some students who are struggling with elaborating on evidence in the text they are reading. We have been able to develop tools to assist students with this skill and give them practice in it while they are writing.

2. Focusing on a growth mindset

By focusing on advanced learning for all, we are challenging our students to push themselves beyond the comfortable. All students are required to take at least one AP class in 9th grade and are expected to take multiple AP courses in subsequent years, with the goal of our students being in dual enrollment in their senior year. By being able to quickly identify any problem a student may be having, we can provide him or her with additional supports before it gets too overwhelming.

In our AP Language and Composition class, students practice synthesis questions, rhetorical analysis questions, and argumentative questions ongoing throughout the school year. The extensive feedback the Graiders from The Graide Network provide has helped students to improve their writing. Not only are they being challenged academically, they are learning how constructive criticism can help them as individuals. Usually as a teacher, you prepare yourself for an “uproar” from a student who receives a lower grade on an essay. With third-party feedback, students are much more receptive to that feedback. They are more likely to agree with the lower grade when there are more details to the feedback. Students get a better understanding of what the feedback really means which makes them eager to revise their work.

Our Advanced Learning for All initiative has sparked competition and excitement throughout our school. It has been great to see results from students already. In 2015, 19 percent of our students scored a 3 or higher on their AP exams. This past school year, 47 percent of our students scored a 3 or higher.

Having a variety of resources available has made the implementation of this initiative much more robust. Our school and the rest of the district continue to work with intent to produce college and career-ready graduates who will be successful in whatever they choose to do.

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