More about the AP-Lit scoring marathon, with apologies to the writers of Angel–“The Apocalypse? You’re soaking in it” (“Underneath“)–from whom I stole my title riff on the old Palmolive dish-soap commercial. I’ll explain soon. First, I must say that the entire Advanced Placement scoring process is very complex and can best be explained by the AP/College Board people. The AP site mentions stats for 2002 of “nearly 938,000” tests; we were told that there were over a million this year, if I recall correctly.

According to my estimate, I read approximately 650 essays, over seven days, plus 25-50. More experienced scorers read a lot more, and some read less. I may have failed to record at least one folder, and toward the end of the last day, readers were sharing  folders, so I scored some from other people’s folders, and vice versa. Also, a few of the essay pages were blank or contained only a few insubstantial lines, so it took almost no time at all to give them a score of — (blank), 0, or 1. Writers who filled a page or more with meditations on their prom plans, their girlfriends, or why this test was stupid, also scored — or 0, but took longer to read.

The question (which I cannot divulge) asked students to analyze literary devices (I don’t think that’s saying too much). Over and over, we were informed that the literary text(s) under discussion “used diction.” “Really! You’re using diction right now!” I wanted to say, but all I could do was read & score. Some of these essays successfully explained what kind of diction and how it was used. Others just meandered on. It was easy to get discouraged–just as when grading a much smaller batch of essays–but the sense I got from everyone at my table, and from everyone I talked with, was that we really wanted to see success. And we looked for every evidence of it we could find. A few really remarkably insightful and well-written essays stood out in almost every folder of 25.

Most of the scorers were high-school AP teachers, so I learned a lot from talking with various ones about the courses they teach and how they prepare their students. Very helpful for me and my colleagues in thinking about what we should be able to expect from our students who “place out” of the first-year comp courses.

A few expected and unexpected pleasures of the week:
a visit with my uncle and aunt, who live two hours away, but kindly drove in and took me out to an Indian restaurant–best food of the week!
surprise encounters among the other readers–a former student from Biola, now completing a PhD at Emory–I’m so proud! and a member of my dad’s church recognized me–I’ve only met her a few times when I attended Sunday school with my dad, but it was nice to see a familiar face.
a colleague from CU’s Mass. Comm. dept. hailed me on the street one evening–he was in Louisville for a conference. My roommate and I were doing some shopping and then on our way to dinner, but again, it was good to see a familiar face.

Speaking of my roommate, I was blessed to end up with someone who was quite pleasant and easy to get along with. As an experienced AP teacher and 5th year veteran of the scoring process, she was a great guide and I think we had a lot in common, too.