Tampa Prep Educators Help Develop National AP Tests

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This month, students across the globe are taking AP exams; two members of Tampa Preparatory School’s History and the Social Sciences department hold major roles in the national AP exam creation and grading process. The positions that these women hold with the College Board are elite, to say the least, but to have two people from the same department at the same school hold such positions, is unheard of.

Olivia Segalman, Communications Coordinator
Tampa Preparatory School
727 W. Cass Street, Tampa, FL 33606
osegalman(at)tampaprep.org | 813-251-8481 | tampaprep.org

This month, students across the globe are taking AP exams. As many of them probably wonder, who creates these exams? Who grades them? This summer, the answer is right in their hometown. Two members of Tampa Preparatory School’s History and the Social Sciences department hold major roles in the national AP exam creation and grading process. The positions that these women hold with the College Board are elite, to say the least, but to have two people from the same department at the same school hold such positions? Unheard of.

AP World History teacher Enaye Englenton will be serving as a Question Leader (QL) for the short answer portion of the AP World History exam, and AP European History teacher Kim Jago will also serve as a QL for the document-based questions of the AP European History exam.

Englenton has been an AP Reader--which means she graded AP World History exams from students across the country--since 2011. On average, an AP Reader reads 1,000 essays during the week they’re grading. It is no small feat. In 2015, she was asked to become a Table Leader (TL), which meant she was responsible for training eight AP Readers on how to score the material or, as they say, “be on standard.” She then oversaw and supervised that table of eight readers throughout the scoring process. She was a TL for two years before being asked to serve as QL in 2017.

“People think we’re crazy because we love going to the AP Read,” says Englenton. “The first year I did it, I didn’t know anyone other than one teacher from an area school. It is probably--for an AP teacher--the best form of professional development you can get, and you’re paid to do it!”

This year as QLs, Englenton and Jago will work with the Exam Leader and Chief Reader of those exams to create the standards for scoring the question to which they have been assigned. What would qualify as standard historical evidence? What constitutes a good response? After some collaboration, the established standards become the basis for training the TLs of the teachers and professors who grade that question. The standards that Englenton and Jago help create are published by the College Board on their website and used to train new teachers.

Englenton is certain that being a QL benefits her students directly. She says, “Having to think like the 280,000 students who take this exam each year, getting myself in the mindset of the average student who’s never seen this question before and thinking, ‘How would I respond?’. This helps me as a teacher to be more thoughtful about how I create materials for my own students.”

Like Englenton, in 2012, Kim Jago was invited to be on the European History Curriculum Development and Assessment Committee for the AP European History exam, which later transitioned into the Test Development Committee. Her initial job on this committee was literally to be the final set of eyes on the AP exam before it went to press, a duty she did not take lightly. “I deliberately don’t remember any of it, of course, but that’s how much they trust us.”

AP Development Committees are made up of an equal number of college faculty and experienced secondary AP teachers from across the country who develop course curriculum, determine general content and ability level of each exam, determine requirements for course syllabi and write and review exam questions.

After four years on that committee, Jago became the Co-Chair aligning proposed test questions (submitted by the Educational Testing Service or outside writers) with the AP curriculum. “It’s an amazing ride working with people who are experts in the field,” she says. “Every word counts. As a high school teacher, I’m a generalist. The PhDs bring something else completely different to the table. They are experts in their specific field. To sit at the table with them, and then stay in touch with them, is a privilege.”

And just what do they do at that table? The committee meets about three or four times a year, and at each meeting they spend time--a lot of time--playing with those questions until everyone agrees that they’re fair. On a recent conference call, she said they spent an hour working on one multiple choice question and three long essay questions. “When you’re working with many PhDs it will take you 20 minutes per line of text at least to go over [each question]. They’ll go word-by-word to determine how the question will be interpreted.”

She mentions the importance of charts and graphs and how careful they need to be to make sure that everyone with any form of learning disability can read the chart or graph. “It’s amazing how hard it is to do that,” she says. “You can’t use color. It’s expensive, yes, but also unfair to the color-blind. You have to be fair.” Currently, her committee is working on the 2020 AP European History exam.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the students. Englenton says it best, “We’re all in this to help students. It doesn’t matter is if it’s our students or someone else’s; we just want to help students succeed.”

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Olivia Segalman
@TampaPrep
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