||What's It Like, and How Do You Sign Up?
"Why do you want to sit and grade tests for a week?" my 11-year-old daughter asked. Well, there are times when this seems like a good question, such as when the posterior gets a little tired of sitting, or the neck and shoulders need a massage, or even when you need to loosen the belt a notch due to all the food available. But the negatives are greatly offset by the learning experience and professional camaraderie that exist for seven to ten days each June. To me, the Reading is the best professional experience related to teaching AP, and you even make a little money for the service.
Today, you can apply to be a reader (consultant) very easily online, but my own case was a little different. In 1985, I was taking a College Board® workshop in computer science in Taipei, Taiwan. The instructor was a member of the Development Committee and a reader. He encouraged us to mail in the form he had, noting that it might be a few years before we were called, as there were only about 60 readers total for AP Computer Science at that time. He wasn't joking -- I got the call in 1992.
In 1998, I switched from reading computer science to reading statistics (not knowing that placing my name on the statistics list would get me automatically removed from computer science). Statistics started out with about the same size reading group as computer science, but by the 2001 Lincoln, Nebraska, Reading it had grown to over 200 readers.
The College Board is aggressive about broadening the geographic distribution of readers, and the number of readers from outside the U.S. is increasing. At the 2001 statistics Reading, another reader from Japan (besides myself) and one from the United Kingdom attended.
The scoring process takes about a week and readers work from eight in the morning to five in the evening, with morning and afternoon breaks as well as lunch. For some subjects, the reader works on different questions during the week, while in others, the reader works on the same question all week. Typically, a university professor is paired with a high school teacher, one of whom is experienced in the scoring process and the other often a first-time reader (an "acorn").
But the scoring experience is much more than reading. In the morning, groups often get together to walk or jog, and evening activities include sports, professional gatherings, social events, card games, speakers, and College Board forums. If you are a table leader or question leader, the process begins three days earlier to refine the rubrics and prepare for the reading process. Housing is in college dorms.
The Reading is usually the first and second weeks of June. For some, this doesn't pose a problem as school is already finished, but if you have scheduling conflicts that may cause extra burdens, it is important to have the support of your school administration. It's not uncommon for teachers to work on school projects (grading tests, final projects, and so on) while attending a Reading.
The main Reading sites are Clemson University, Trinity College, and the University of Nebraska. Some scoring also takes place at Colorado State University, in Daytona Beach, and at the College of New Jersey.
The College Board has produced a short video, "What's in a Grade", set mainly at Clemson. The video is about 10 years old, but it does give insight into the process -- a process that is of the highest standard in order to maintain the integrity and credibility of the AP Program.