Raising the Bar

Seniors Jackie and Val struggle to balance the academic demands of Advanced Placement Statistics with their busy lives outside of the classroom. Larry Stover, new to teaching an AP course, keeps expectations high for his students and looks for ways to motivate them before the AP exam.

Jackie and Val prepare for their upcoming quiz.

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Jackie and Val instant message each other about their upcoming AP statistics quiz

valgal27: omg! i will totally fail stats tomorrow. do u get the review sheet?

laxfan_jackie: kind of…but I’m confused too

valgal27: i was on the orchestra trip missed class/review session whos pascal? why do we care about his triangle?

laxfan_jackie: hard to explain… maybe he’ll go over this stuff before the quiz…g2g… meet me at my car in the AM

valgal27: ok…ttyl

Val had spent hours pouring over her statistics textbook in preparation for tomorrow’s quiz. She and Jackie had gone back and forth instant messaging each other, trying to fill in the blanks that each had due to absences or just not getting it. With three other AP classes on her class schedule, Val often left schoolwork, especially studying, to the last minute—and she was beginning to feel the effects of procrastination more than ever.

The next morning, as planned, Jackie and Val met up in the student parking lot before first period and walked together to class. Surveying the available desks, the pair opted for spots close to the front of the room. Val was constantly forgetting her glasses, and they liked to be in close range of the whiteboard.

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Jackie and Val wait for their teacher to pass out the quizzes

“Can’t we ever start class on time?” Jackie muttered under her breath, making sure it was just loud enough for Val to hear over the classroom buzz. She shuffled through her notes, preparing to ask her teacher some last-minute questions.

“I know, right?” Val mumbled back. “All the information I crammed into my brain is gonna spill out if we don’t get started soon.”

Times were tense for these seniors—lacrosse season was well underway, prom was looming, and college acceptance letters would be in the mail any day now. On top of that, AP tests were rapidly approaching, and their teachers were not going easy on them.

Larry Stover feels the pressure of the upcoming AP test.

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Larry encourages students to finish the quiz

Although he’d been at Larabee High School for years, this was Larry’s first year as an AP teacher. He’d always thought teaching AP would be a breeze. As he’d heard from his colleagues, AP students took care of themselves. Teachers could dig right into content without the hassles of classroom management and discipline to deal with. But recently, things had changed. The pressures of the spring test had brought on some unexpected visitors—namely anxious administrators and “helicopter parents.” As the students themselves became more demanding of him, he was struggling to keep his patience.

AP Statistics curriculum

Larry’s Mini-quiz on Probability Distribution and Certainty

Larry sighed as he looked at the clock. Some students had only finished a third of the quiz, even with all the extra time he’d given. They’d been working for over thirty minutes and should’ve been done in just ten. He worried about how these kids would perform on their exam. At this rate, they would have to spend the night at the testing location! Still, he knew he had to try to keep them on track. Larabee students’ scores on the AP Statistics exam had traditionally been high, a lot of 4s and 5s, and he wanted to secure the same results.

Larry had taught seniors for years and had built in some flexibility for the over-committed types. Weekend review sessions provided extra support and an informal atmosphere, which proved especially helpful, Larry thought, for students who didn’t feel as comfortable speaking up in class. With the AP exam rapidly approaching, he expected more students to take advantage of this opportunity, but was prepared to offer some extra credit to sweeten the deal. So far, numbers were good with a core group of students who were really trying. It was the unmotivated students that he found hard to handle.

AP Statistics review session schedule

To break the silence after his “lecture,” Larry gathered his materials for the day’s lesson. The class had already started working on random variable distribution the previous day, so little introduction was necessary.

“Okay guys. Take out your assignments from yesterday,” he started. Students groaned as they slowly fumbled for the worksheet he’d passed out the day before. Speaking of motivation, Larry thought as he watched them. He could see the quiz had taken a toll on his students. Maybe they could use a little pep talk.

Jackie struggles to meet the high expectations she has for herself.

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A lack of sleep makes it hard for Jackie to focus.

The impromptu lecture about senioritis really hit Jackie hard. How would he know how they felt? Teachers got to leave after school, right? She, on the other hand, had a track meet, yearbook meeting, and had to stay up till 1:30 getting ready for the quiz.

Val and Jackie’s graded quizzes

Taking a sip of her latte, Jackie sleepily took out her notebook from her backpack and started to take notes on the connection between Pascal’s Triangle and Distribution of Probability. She tried to tune back in to the sound of her teacher’s voice. It wasn’t too bad, she thought—decks of cards, dice, winners and losers—she could figure this out.

Random variable assignment

College Board’s AP Course Audit Information