How I’m Teaching AP Macro Despite Having No Content Knowledge
My October report
In October, my AP Macroeconomics students took the Unit III and IV tests. They also worked on their semester-long projects and, toward the end of the month, met with AP Macro teacher, Jacob Reed, via Zoom.
How I Prepared the Students for the Unit III and IV Tests
For starters, I abandoned the approach that I had taken since the start of the school year (with this approach described in detail in my September report).
In other words, I didn’t “teach” a single lesson in October, relying instead on the AP Daily video-producing teachers to teach my students what they needed to know.
Consequently, an October visitor to my classroom almost always saw the students working quietly at their desks, looking much like students in a college library might look, with me, either also working quietly at my desk, or helping students with their semester-long project in the hallway just outside the classroom door,
My Students’ Unit III and IV Test Scores
Given the above, most teachers might have predicted that my students wouldn’t do very well on their Unit III and IV MCQ and FRQ tests.
Yet, the students' Unit III and IV test scores revealed that 83% of my 72 are on track to receive a score of 3 or better on this year’s AP Macro Exam.
The above prediction is based on my interpretation of AP Classroom’s green and yellow colored bars and detailed in my September, second month of school, report. This interpretation of the AP Classroom’s green and yellow colored bars is based on dialogue I’ve had with experienced AP Macro teachers. It is not an official description of the colored bars provided by the AP Program itself.
Aside from watching the AP Daily videos, answering the AP Classroom Topic Questions, and taking the AP Classroom Progress Checks, many of my students also viewed several Jacob Clifford, Jacob Reed, and Khan Academy videos. They also took a close look at several practice tests one of my mentors shared with me.
Where I Stand on the Issue of Retakes
I‘m a fan of retakes, but only if:
- The students wanting to take a retake, first present their teacher, as they enter the room on the day of the retake, with a “retake room entry ticket”, with this ticket to describe in detail the specific things that the student did to get ready for the retake (amount of time spent studying, test corrections, etc.)
- The teacher giving the retake records in the grade book the average of the retake and original test scores, regardless of whether this average is high or lower than the original test score.
And why am I a fan of retakes? Three reasons:
- With AP Classroom the creation, administration, and scoring of all tests and quizzes is super easy; so too the recording of all test and quiz scores.
- I believe that retakes are a great way for teachers to help alleviate unwanted and unnecessary student stress and anxiety.
- I disagree with those who say that in the real world, nobody allows for retakes. The PSATs, SATs, ACTs, DMV driver license tests, law school admission tests, and the tests that allow you to become a pilot, operating room surgeon, and every other kind of high paying, well respected professional, all allow for retakes.
The Students’ Semester-long Project
By the end of September, all of my students had signed up to do one of the following:
- Produce a business plan.
- Produce an AP Daily Macroeconomics “resemblance video.”
- Produce a feature story designed for publication in the San Marino Tribune (the local newspaper), with this feature story to describe the history, particularly during Covid, of a “super cool Los Angeles area small business that the residents of San Marino might be interested in learning about.”
- Produce a 750–1000 word blog post describing how they, while hypothetically serving as a member of a registered interest group, sought to affect economic-related policy on behalf of that interest group.
By the end of October, two of my students had completed their projects.
Elaina’s Semester-Long Project: For this PBL, Elaina assumed that she was an AP Macroeconomics teacher who, after many years of experience, had been hired by College Board to produce an AP Daily Video #4 (Topic 1.3 — Comparative Advantage and Gains from Trade.)
Elaina’s video provides viewers with various Topic 1.3 practice problems and thus seeks to build on the three very well done Topic 1.3 AP Daily Videos produced by Macroeconomics teacher Matt Romano.
Below, what AP President Trevor Packer has said about my students’ resemblance videos: “What a thrill to be able to sample these resemblance videos . . . I hope many other teachers learn about this practice of yours and imitate it — it seems like such a powerful way to help students develop a strong understanding of specific topics . . .”
Michael’s semester-long project: For this PBL, Michael assumed that he was the owner of Mike’s Meat, “a company that sells “high-quality butchered meat to high-end restaurants, hospitals, universities located within the United States, and U.S. military bases located in the following states: Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Oklahoma.”
Michael’s Business plan details how Mike’s Meat plans to sell its beef to Suriname (the smallest independent country in South America.)
True, this particular business plan isn’t quite what I had envisioned when I first placed this learning opportunity before my students. What I was hoping for was a written document that describes in detail how a “startup” defines its objectives and how it is to go about achieving its goals.
A written roadmap for a company in its “initial stages”, that’s what I had envisioned.
On the other hand, I’m sharing here. Michael has produced a fine bit of work, one that he spent many hours on and that he has taken great pride in.
Zoom Meeting with Jacob Reed
Given that so many of my school’s 120+ AP Macro students are big fans of Jacob Reed’s ReviewEcon videos, I arranged, mid-October, for Jacob to meet with some of these students via Zoom.
What a fun and informative half-hour that was! All especially enjoyed hearing Jacob describe how and why he has made so many videos and what videos he’s still planning to make.
Jacob’s ReviewEcon videos can be found here:
The Most Important Things I’ve Learned to Date
- The AP Macroeconomics Daily Videos are a far more powerful teaching and learning tool than many AP teachers are currently suggesting.
- AP Classroom has much to offer, though it takes much time and effort for a teacher to learn to utilize this resource well.
- The Unit IV test, for all of the Macroeconomics students here at SMHS (and not just mine), proved infinitely more challenging than any of the Unit 1-III tests.
- My students' FRQ scores tend to be better than their MCQ scores.
What I’m Wondering About
- To what extent, will the students’ average MCQ scores decline as we move into Units V-VI. Their Unit IV average score was lower than their Unit III average score and their Unit III average score was lower than their Unit II average score.
- To what extent, will the students’ average FRQ scores continue to exceed their MCQ scores.
- Will I need to reschedule the Unit VI test? Per the CED, the Unit VI test is to be scheduled five class periods after the Unit V test. My Unit V test is scheduled for November 8 and my Unit VI test is scheduled for November 17.