Testing organization taps Kettering faculty

Jul 14, 2006

The prestigious Advance Placement (AP) Program of the College Board selects two Kettering faculty members to grade AP tests in Computer Science and Chemistry.

Dr. Carl Aronson, associate professor of Chemistry, and Dr. Jim Huggins, associate professor of Computer Science and Kettering's Faculty Senate moderator for the 2006 calendar year, recently participated in the annual reading and scoring of the College Board's AP examinations in June at Clemson University in Clemson, S.C.

Each year the AP Program provides more than one million capable high school students an opportunity to take rigorous college-level courses and examinations and, based on their performance, receive credit and/or advanced placement when they enter college. This year, more than 8,000 readers from universities and high schools evaluated more than 2.3 million examinations in 20 disciplines. According to the College Board, these evaluators represent some of the best high school and college educators in the United States, Canada and abroad.

For Aronson and Huggins, the opportunity to serve as readers represents a unique honor and opportunity for their careers and Kettering University. Huggins, who read tests for a second time as an evaluator for the AP, is encouraged by the intelligence of students.

"Our group had about 20,000 tests to read, and the AP did a great job managing the process," Huggins said about his reading period in mid June. "Student responses were well informed and I feel these students are ready for the rigors of college," he added.

Huggins finds this sort of professional opportunity inspiring, since he and others from the education community around the country are able to come together and discuss their discipline in great detail. According to Trevor Packer, executive director of the Advanced Placement Program at the College Board, the exam reading "draws upon the talents of some of the finest teachers and professors that the world has to offer," he said, adding that the reading "fostersprofessionalism, allows for the exchange of ideas, and strengthens the commitment to students and to teaching."

As a first time examination reader, Aronson participated in the scoring of more than 84,000 exams in Chemistry in late June, of which he was responsible for scoring one question on 700 tests. His particular question was actually a nine-part essay question based on given physical chemistry data that required students to compose their responses in a thoughtful, but factual manner.

"The tests are very broad-based and covered a great deal of ground in Chemistry," Aronson said, adding that the essay type questions "are a good way to gauge science literacy. Having the students actually construct an essay response to a Chemistry question helps readers see if the student understands the concepts and if they can correctly communicate a thoughtful answer to that question using college level scientific lingo."

Both Aronson and Huggins feel that there is an increasing emphasis on advance college placement and AP courses at the high school level based on the number of students who take the exams each year. According to both, readers are comprised of approximately 50 percent high school AP instructors and 50 percent college professors. According to data published by the ACT, enrollments in engineering and/or science-related programs at the college level have steadily decreased since 2000. As more and more high school teachers become AP readers and share experiences with other college professors during their time evaluating exams, there may be opportunities to better learn how to attract kids into the sciences and engineering more effectively.

Overall, Aronson and Huggins enjoyed their time this past month reviewing tests and firmly believe this work helps their college teaching immensely.

"It really is invaluable professional training," Huggins said.

Aronson agreed and added that he hopes to continue doing it in the near future."Ithink serving as a test reader makes you a sharper grader and test reviewer for your own classes," he said.

Click on this link to learn more about the College Board's AP exams.

Written by Gary J. Erwin
(810) 762-9538