BY KARINA BLODNIEKS
Last week, junior Dashiel Heidt put the finishing touches on his 4,869 word paper on project management in independent three-dimensional video game development. Next month, he’ll be doing a twenty-minute presentation on the topic before a panel of three judges.
For students in Lisa Jones’ AP Research class, this is the finish line they’ve been working toward all school year.
“I feel like I have a better understanding of forming complex arguments,” Heidt said. “By giving a more in-depth project to constitute an exam, it allows for a more realistic type of academic task for one to complete.”
AP Research, AP Seminar, AP Studio Art and AP Computer Science Principles are leading the way to the future of examination with their performance-based AP tests, which score students based on a year-long project as opposed to (or in tandem with) a traditional exam.
Many students believe that this type of evaluation is better suited to showcasing skills in more task-based courses.
In AP Studio Art, young artists are expected to create a 24-piece portfolio over the course of one or two years. Instead of sitting for a traditional exam, they’ll send digital images of their pieces over to College Board on May 5.
Studio Art instructor Irma Barr believes that task-oriented exams give students more freedom to express their talents, and that this is the best way to evaluate art students.
AP Photography student Lexi Delgado says that the exam shows off the true skills taught in an art class.
“To me, it seems like [AP Studio Art] is more about what the student thinks, and how they interpret what they’ve learned,” Delgado said. “It gives you more leeway.”
In AP Research, students are up to a similar task, completing a single paper and presentation as the entirety of their exam. Being given the ability to research anything they want, students in the Research course are able to truly express their interests in an academic context.
Studio Art and Research are the only APs which students can submit work in lieu of a traditional exam. For AP Seminar and AP Computer Science Principles, students will submit a project and sit for an exam.
Senior Benjamin Goldstein has been working hard this year trying to create a framework for developers to make games with text-based graphics. As the task part of his Computer Science Principles Exam, Goldstein will submit his finished piece to College Board in May. Afterward, he’ll sit for a multiple-choice exam. The combination of the two evaluations will constitute his AP exam score.
Goldstein, who has taken AP exams in both traditional and unconventional form for computer science, says that the two address different things.
“I think it showcases different skills,” Goldstein said. “I took the Computer Science A exam two years ago, which was a very traditional exam. It was good for determining whether you could program in the specific language the class taught.”
However, Goldstein went on to say that multiple-choice doesn’t always fit the bill.
“Computer science isn’t just about knowing the language – it also encompasses planning out your projects, determining how to implement your ideas and solving the challenges you encounter along the way,” Goldstein said. “I think that the project is definitely better at showcasing those skills than a traditional exam.”
Similarly, AP Seminar asks students to complete two task assessments and one End-of-Course exam, each of which contributes about fifty percent of the exam score. The course asks students to come up with and address social problems and potential solutions, using argumentation and research to supplement their ideas.
“The task assessments make you think about real problems and the students are able to approach those problems in their own ways,” Seminar student Aliceon Clemmenson said. “Once you’re given the tools you need to find and evaluate information, you get to really be creative with your argument and solutions, so it’s a true problem-solving environment.”
Overall, CCHS students taking these exams seem to find them to be an outlet for creativity and real-world thought processes.