Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Back to School Shopping for AP Psych

Greetings, AP Psych Students and Parents!

I hope this message finds you enjoying a pleasant Wisconsin summer. However, according to virtually every retail establishment I’ve visited during the past two weeks, it’s time for back-to-school shopping. Whether that thought excites you or makes you cringe, I figured I’d give you the heads up about what you’ll need for AP Psych. That way, we can streamline your shopping trip (whenever it happens).


  • Be sure to pick up a 3-ring binder for use throughout the year in AP Psych. You’ll need this to keep your notes and handouts organized by topic area. Look for one 1.5 to 2.5 inches in width (3 in is usually too unwieldy to carry in a backpack daily). Note: I do have a number of free binders generously donated by the parent of a former student (her workplace was discarding them). I’ll have them available at textbook pick-up on a first-come, first-served basis. If you want to save some cash, you are welcome to take one at no cost!
  • You’ll also want paper for note-taking (loose-leaf or notebook, your choice). Student preference is the key here: some folks like to use loose-leaf paper so they can insert notes into the binder by topic area, others like keeping their notes all in one notebook (post-it tabs to mark chapters/units can be helpful if going that route). If you like notebooks, be aware that many students fill up their notebooks by spring in AP Psych, so having more than one on hand will help. Also, some students prefer to keep their book notes and class notes separate (not a bad idea), so you’ll want to think about your “system” when shopping.
  • Pens and pencils are going to be necessary. Perhaps this is obvious, but I thought I’d be thorough.

Some students like to purchase these items to assist with their studying and test preparation throughout the year (and prior to the AP Psych Exam). However, they are not required. (Tip: Parents sometimes purchase these as very practical gifts at birthdays and holidays, so you may want to hang on to this for future reference).

    Additional test-prep book(s). There are a lot of these on the market (and you can find them online or at large book stores in the test-prep section), and are not many differences from one brand to another. Cost is usually $17-20. Some students like using them (especially the practice tests usually found in them) as the AP Exam approaches in the spring, but this is completely a matter of personal preference. If purchasing one of these, be sure to look for the 2014-2015 version or later, since our curriculum changes slightly this year (and previous versions will not be up to date). I’ve got examples of these for viewing (or classroom use), so feel free to take a look at them when you come in for textbook pick-up if you want to see what they are like.
  • Strive for a 5 Study Guide (cost $30; accompanies the textbook). This workbook helps students process what they read in the text and practice skills in preparation for unit tests and the AP Psych Exam. I’m very excited about this, because I think it’s a great resource for students! The district provides each student with a copy; HOWEVER (and this is a big drawback, I think), because the district’s copies will be reused from year-to-year, students cannot write in them. That is a bummer, because they are set up like workbooks and would be much easier to use if students could write in them. Because I think that students might be interested in purchasing their own copies (to be able to write in them), I’m happy to organize an order for those who wish to do so. Students will be getting the copies provided by the district at textbook pick-up in mid-August, so you are free to take a look at the item and decide if you’d like to buy your own instead. If you know you would like to order your own, payments will be accepted at that time (then I can hopefully get the order submitted in time for them to arrive for the start of the school year). Depending on interest, I may place a second order in September (if students would like to wait and see how the first unit goes before buying). Unfortunately, the publisher does not have a direct retail website, so all ordering will have to be organized through the school.
  • Flash card sets. Like the test-prep books, it’s easy to find these online or at large book stores, and some students appreciate not having to print/make 1000+ flashcards on their own. (Note, however, that online flashcards are linked up to the class website for free;  this would be for folks who like having physical versions on hand for study.) However, if you wait until March or April to buy them, you may have trouble, since they tend to be in high demand as the AP Exam approaches (when, suddenly, 260,000 AP Psych students decide to simultaneously purchase them). Like the test-prep books, I’ve got sample sets for classroom use, so you can peruse them before deciding if it’s worth buying your own.
If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email (wellevk@chipfalls.org) or ask when you come in to pick-up your textbook in August. Enjoy the rest of your summer, and happy shopping!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Congrats, AP Psych Class of 2015!

Chi-Hi Students who took this year's AP Psychology Exam have a lot to be proud of! Score reports for students and teachers (in Wisconsin) were released yesterday, and much celebrating is in order for this group of students!

Note to Students: If you haven't logged in to check your own AP Exam results, you can do so here, depending on your location. Wisconsin was scheduled for Day 2 of a five-day staggered release, so if you are trying to access scores from a computer in another state, you may have to wait until that state's scheduled release date.

Before I detail some of the highlights from this year's results, I want to emphasize (as always) that students are more than a score. It is a strange thing to see a year's worth of work reduced down to a few pages of numbers, as it is both satisfying and incomplete at the same time. While I'm pleased with the group's performance, keep in mind that I see much more than numbers when I look at score reports.

I see hours and hours of hard work put in, during study sessions and late night readings.

I see students who grew A LOT in their study habits over the course of the year, students who are now much more ready for college-level work than when they started.

I see students who were, literally, reduced to tears over some unit tests, but who doubled-down and committed to mastering the material even when it wasn't easy.

And, I see students who, for their studies this year, now have a much better understanding of the psychology of their everyday lives.

So, regardless of your individual score, there is something to be celebrated in what you've accomplished! Please take the time to do so!

Some highlights from this year's results:

  • 93.2% of Chi-Hi students who took the exam passed it (earned a 3 or above). That is quite an achievement in and of itself, as (according to my records) it is the second-highest pass rate for AP Psych in Chi-Hi's history, surpassed only by 2013's group, which saw a 95% pass rate. 
  • This is also substantially higher than the national pass rate, which was 66.2%.
  • The average score on this year's AP Psychology Exam was 4.23, the highest ever for Chi-Hi AP Psych students.
  • That high average is in part the result of the huge chunk of students who earned 5's (the highest possible score) on the exam! 52% of Chi-Hi AP Psych students earned a 5 on this year's test! Wowsa!
The release of last spring's scores always signals to me that planning for next year must soon begin, so as much as I'd like to join in the celebrating, it's time for me to return to work. I'll be updating the course resources, lesson plans, pacing guides, and syllabi over the next several weeks, so prepare for a lot of messiness on this site.

The Class of 2015 set a high standard for others to follow, but I'm excited for the challenges ahead. In looking at my rosters, there is more history to be made next year in AP Psych, as we're expecting our largest-yet class of AP Psych students: 118 at the time of this writing. That means another potential milestone lies ahead in 2016: we're likely to have our first-ever group of test takers that numbers in the triple digits for a single subject!