Professional Learning Community will pool resources, improve communication
Assistant Principal Alicia Deeny is currently developing a plan to improve Advanced Placement (AP) test scores this year with Principal Renay Johnson, the AP Committee and AP teachers. Her efforts include creating the first AP Professional Learning Community (PLC) at Blair, expanding the after-hours support system and improving communication between teachers, parents and students on the available support options.
The AP PLC will consist of informal collaboration between AP teachers to make sure they are testing the same objectives. The teachers will also evaluate which areas students struggle with the most. Deeny believes that the increased cross-curriculum communication will eliminate scheduling conflicts between different subjects' supports. "One of the things I observed last year was that students would have to choose which AP support to go to," she said. "This way, you won't have to choose one subject over another."
AP Biology teacher Marta Woodward believes that the PLC will also help new teachers like herself quickly adapt to the curriculum. "[The new system] will give me access to resources I didn't know existed and give me useful tips for engaging students as they learn complex subject matter," she said.
Deeny also plans to expand last year's AP World History boot camp to include more subjects and sessions. According to participating teacher James Mogge, being a school-wide support program allowed the boot camp to be very effective. "By taking it out of the classroom and away from individual teachers, we identified a larger audience and were able to use facilities in the building that wouldn't be available to individual teachers, like the media center," Mogge said.
However, the boot camp's organizer, Media Specialist Andrea Lamphier, felt that there were not enough sessions, a sentiment Mogge shared. "The time periods last year meant that not everyone could make them," he said. Because of this, Deeny hopes to include more dates this year and expand the support system to involve other courses. "We want it to reach as many subject areas as possible," Deeny said.
But in order for the AP PLC and boot camp to succeed in improving AP test scores, Deeny believes that communication between teachers, parents and students must also improve. One way is to compile a list of support options available for students to take home. "This will let them know when their AP teachers offer help, but also where to go outside the school day like the AP boot camp and online tools like subscriptions that the media center offers," Deeny said.
She also plans to coordinate communication between study hall proctors and AP teachers to discover if AP study halls are beneficial and create a email list shared by all AP teachers.
Lamphier is optimistic about these efforts leading to higher test scores, particularly the plan to expand the boot camp and provide students a list of options. "If I were a student and I needed extra help in the month leading up to the AP exams, I would love a broader boot camp if I knew what time specific parts of courses were offered and where," she said. Sophomore Sara Heilig agreed, saying that she would definitely attend an expanded boot camp. "I imagine it's a lot of pressure and stress preparing for an AP test so it would be good to have a place where you can get help," she said.
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