Computer Science Faculty Grade AP Exams

January 11th, 2001 by Adam

January 10, 2001

Two Plymouth State College computer science faculty members will be traveling to Clemson University in South Carolina this June to grade the 2001 Advanced Placement tests for The College Board and Educational Testing Service (ETS). This will be Professor Peter Drexel’s sixth time evaluating the work of high school computer science students seeking college credit for their programming knowledge. Leesa Knudson teaches business and computer science, including AP classes, at Bow High School and is a lecturer for PSC’s computer science department. She first applied to the program last year with Drexel’s encouragement; she will return for her second year this summer.

Each faculty consultant chooses one of six questions to grade. In the computer science exam, the response to each question is a program in the C++ programming language. “It’s a lot like doing an essay question,” Drexel explains. Readers look for proper logic and syntax, assigning points based on a rubric. “Ideally, the programs should all be the same,” he says. “You are looking for a particular format. But sometimes you see a really creative solution that you didn’t expect. Then everyone stops to come take a look at it.” Tests are graded on a one-to-five scale, earning high school students three to six college credits in computer science.

The process takes seven very full days, and yes—it gets a little dry sometimes. “You look at it from the outside and you’d say ‘you’re crazy—you’re nuts!’” Drexel laughs. But he is drawn back year after year by the opportunity to spend time with colleagues from across the country—building friendships and talking about the latest developments in computer science. “The camaraderie is what you go for—being in the midst of all these high level folks. You let your hair down—politics goes away.”

Knudson agrees, “It was wonderful. I’m the only person at my school who teaches these kinds of classes, so it was great to meet other people who do.” She finds the interaction with colleagues at different levels stimulating, and notes that it enhances what she can bring to her classroom. “Programming is one of those things that can be taught from a variety of angles. Just being able to talk to a variety of people about a variety of approaches is beneficial.”
Drexel believes that he and Knudson are the only computer science participants from New Hampshire. He praises his fellow AP Readers, pointing out that The College Board and ETS set high standards for participants. “I’m very proud to be a part of it.”