Teacher’s Perspective: The AP Tests with Madame Broche, AP French

By Jaime Wise, Contributor

This school year was unusual. Every grade was impacted by the coronavirus outbreak — seniors missed their final projects, juniors’ college search processes were interrupted, and everyone finished the last quarter at home away from their friends, the help of their teachers, and the general day-to-day of a school experience. In response to these conditions, final exams changed as well. Many classes had final projects or essays instead of exams. Some teachers even scrapped the exams entirely, using a different grade as a substitute. But AP teachers weren’t able to change their tests. The College Board was in charge of making the changes for them, and Flint Hill’s AP teachers had to spend the last quarter preparing their students for this year’s new exams. I talked with Upper School French Teacher Madame Broche, who has taught AP French at Flint Hill for years, about that process and the difficulties of this year’s AP tests for both students and teachers.

 

I asked Madame Broche, how do teachers format their classes in normal years? How important is the test in the formation of the class? She told me that her class was geared towards the test, in her words, “from day one.” The AP exams test a certain set of skills, so AP teachers divide the year to equally teach all skills. Each quarter of AP French is focused on one of four tested skills, with the fourth quarter usually focused on speaking ability. The 2020 AP French exam was different in that it only tested on speaking ability. Three quarters worth of work was invalidated, leaving any student with an imbalanced skill set — who might do better in writing than speaking — with no way to show their proficiency in the subject as a whole. Other subjects suffered similarly.

 

“There was an unfairness,” Madame Broche said, for everybody. Students took tests that didn’t accurately show their full abilities, and teachers only had weeks to change their curriculum and prepare their students for those tests. But there wasn’t much of an alternative. Students take AP courses for college applications and college credit. The College Board chose not to postpone the tests, though Madame Broche told me they had been considering it, so if a student wanted to earn anything from taking an AP class, they had to take the test, even under the less-than-ideal circumstances.

 

The 2020-21 school year is going to unfold fairly similarly to this school year in regards to AP tests remaining altered. But teachers will have had more time to adjust their class plans, and Madame Broche thinks they will be more prepared. She also thinks that the tests will be reformatted again for a more condensed version of the usual test. She said, “There is no way we can cover” all of the year’s material because the five day schedule means we will have fewer classes in a shorter amount of time.

 

The AP tests may never fully return to what they were before. But they can be better than they were this year, and with more time plus the dwindling importance of the SAT, the College Board’s other lucrative test, I’m sure next year’s APs will be better than ever.