#DBC50Summer 42/50: All 4s and 5s

As a high school student, I was pretty driven. I knew that when (not if) I attended college, I would be the first in my immediate family to attend a four-year university. My dad dropped out of high school (later obtaining his GED) and my mom took some courses at the community college, but went into the workforce and was married soon after high school graduation. Knowing that my family would be stretched financially, I tried to complete as many college courses as possible before attending the university.

Advanced Placement, or AP, courses were becoming a thing of the past in my state when I was in high school. Our state has an articulation agreement between community colleges and public state universities (like University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Appalachian State University, East Carolina University, etc). There is also an agreement that students currently enrolled in high school can take college courses at no cost through dual enrollment, many even renting textbooks and courses being taught on the high school campus by high school teachers who are qualified by community colleges to teach the course.

Regular courses held a GPA of 4.0 for an “A”, while honors were weighted at 5.0 and AP and college level courses were 6.0. In order to obtain the 6.0 GPA for the Advanced Placement course and college credit, students had to score proficient or above on the AP Exam. Therefore, students were opting to take college courses and show proficiency through classwork rather than through College Board exams. I left high school with something like 24 credit hours for college completed. I never took an AP class.

I had been excited about Book 42 for quite some time! Coming up on its 6 month “publish-iversary” is Andrew Sharos‘s book All 4s and 5s!


Andrew straight up brings it in this book! There’s another acronym, which I’ve just about come to expect from DBC books! Knowing that Dave Burgess has a (slight) obsession with acronyms, and being that he’s the President of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc – it would make sense that so many of the authors he publishes share an affection for acronyms. In Andrew’s book, SCORES is not just what he’s aiming for, but it’s also his acronym of choice. You’ll have to purchase his book in order to find out what his system is for increasing AP scores as an AP teacher.

And increasing scores, he does!!! To go from a 1.96 class average on the AP US History exam with an 18% pass rate to a class average of 4.45 with 100% pass rate in just 3 years… that’s incredible by any standard with any group of students! His students outscored students with much higher socio-economic status and more privilege than these kids could ever dream.

There was this point in the book that I was just highlighting. I could have highlighted every single word Andrew said. There was so much truth and I couldn’t get enough.

It was just that good. (By the way, this guy knows how to hook the reader… he sucks you into a story, then right before he delivers the punchline, he switches gears to fill you in on a backstory or whatnot. I may have skipped ahead in Chapter 4 just so I could hear what Guadalupe said to him after class the day he got emotional. Yeah, that may have happened.) I love the passion exuded in this book. You can tell that the author is truly passionate about believing all students can succeed. Not only succeed, but succeed at the highest levels in one of the notoriously toughest exams available to them.

One of my favorite quotes in the book is a reminder that we are the adults in the situation. This doesn’t always mean that we’ll have it all together, but that we are the grounding force in the classroom. This isn’t a responsibility to take lightly.

Throughout the book, Andrew talks about the culture of his classroom being “us against the test”. He speaks to the stress of taking these advanced courses and the sense of community that can be created within these students. In a survey given to my students at the end of last year, the word “stressed” or some variation was noted 15 times by 14 different students. Middle school students who are stressed about the workload they endure.

Teaching at a middle school, we don’t offer AP courses. However, we do offer a “younger cousin” (if you will) by offering high school courses while in middle school. The middle school I serve offers the opportunity for 8th grade students to take Math 1, English 1, Earth & Environmental Science, and World History. These are all 9th grade courses. These students are still responsible for learning the content and showing mastery on the 8th grade work as well. This is an incredible opportunity for these students (many who which elect to take all four advanced courses) because this translates to a semester of college courses for free through dual-enrollment on the back end!

Like Andrew says in All 4s and 5s, “AP Students are often among the most stressed out in the entire school. They are also the most overcommitted students who rarely turn down an opportunity to play, act, compete, participate, serve, or belong.”

When asked what they wished teachers knew, one student at my school replied: That we (or try/want to) have a life outside of school. Also that we can’t handle so much work at once. Stress, especially at this age, is NOT something easy to cope with. I know from personal experience.

For this reason, I love Andrew’s advice to teachers to be flexible.

Coordinate with teachers of other higher level courses to plan your tests, essays, etc around their syllabi. This is true of all content areas and not just for advanced placement.

I love this thought and believe we should all be participating in cross-curricular planning so we don’t stress students more than necessary. We have to remember that these students aren’t just going home and playing video games all evening. Many of them support their families through working a job, taking care of younger siblings, being the adult in the house for various reasons, and worrying about an essay due in this class and a large exam in another, while a culminating project is due in a third, all within the same day… that kind of stress can be avoided. Yes, they will experience this as they are adults – we all have stress like this. But their brains and emotions are not yet mature enough to handle this. Remember, even at 14, 16, 17, even 18 years old… they’re still kids.

My implementation plan for this book excites me! I used to do more of this as an elementary teacher, but then I had children of my own and wasn’t able to commit to this as much, so I dropped it all together. Now that both of my personal children are in elementary school, I am able to pick it back up and as soon as I saw Andrew Sharos mention it in All 4s and 5s, I knew this was the implementation route I had to go!

Andrew speaks to making “relationship deposits with students in academic and non-academic ways whenever we can.” We can connect with our students…”attending their games, performances, and activities after school or on weekends.” That’s exactly what I plan to do! Some of the greatest looks I’ve ever seen on the faces of my students are when I show up at their games after school. Knowing that I support them both academically and athletically establishes trust that cannot be replicated any other way. Therefore, my plan is to attend at least one game in each athletic season of my middle school students. This will be quite a feat as we have multiple sports at my school – cross-country track, volleyball, soccer, and football are happening now. Then we’ll have basketball and wrestling, swimming and golf, tennis, softball, baseball, and track and field. I think that’s all of our teams – that’s quite a bit in middle school, right? I’m so excited to cheer my students on as they take the field (court, diamond, etc) this year! Having my own daughters there and knowing that they will be yelling their support for their educational brothers and sisters (because they’re all “my kids”) makes it all the more meaningful for me, too! I can’t wait to see the dividends this pays throughout the year!

All 4s and 5s is definitely a book for planning a successful AP program in your school, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a book for any educator who wants to see the best from every student. It’s a book for educators who believe that every student can be successful. I believe any school with accelerated classes, academically/intellectually gifted, etc programs would benefit from this book, as well as classroom teachers who refuse to “teach to the middle”. I am a firm believer that if you teach all students with high expectations, they will eventually rise to those expectations. I’m excited to see the impact of Andrew’s book as it continues to make its way across the country!  I highly recommend you go grab a copy – don’t let the “AP” on the front deter you!

You can follow along with Andrew on twitter at @AndrewSharosAP and the book at @All4sand5s. Ideas are tweeted to #APTeach. I especially love the pictures of the signs in the yards of students. You can see the pride on their teachers and parents faces as well! It’s truly a team effort! There is also a chat you can join on the first Wednesday of each month at 9:00 pm EST. Use that #APTeach hashtag on Twitter to join! Be sure to check out Andrew’s website here. Vicki (@coolcatteacher) Davis interviews Andrew on her 10-Minute Teacher Podcast here. You can also search for #LeydenPride and see the incredible stuff this school and district are doing in Illinois! As always, you can join the fun (or start the fun) on the flipgrid copiloted by Andrea Paulakovich and me. Andrea sent me a DM a few days after #DBC50Summer started and she was eager to begin her own journey with the addition of Flipgrid. I was so blown away that she’d share this experience with me and I’m honored to copilot the flipgrid that was her genius idea! Use this space for global collaborative reflections on all DBC, Inc books!

*Fun story: I just realized that Andrew is in the same district as a fellow I met in 2015 named Jason Markey. Jason came to NCDLCN to present about Empowering Students and the power of a hashtag! Such a small, small world! Jason likely doesn’t remember me, but I was so inspired by the discussion that day that I immediately wanted to create a blog and write every day for 180 days and create a school and/or district hashtag. We did eventually create a school Twitter account at the elementary school I served at the time and our district has a hashtag that is used to share the awesome in our district. What a small world!

I highly enjoyed book 42. You may be wondering if I’ve forgotten the secret I was going to share in the last ten blogs. I’ve not forgotten. I’m just not ready to share it. Soon though, soon. Book 43 is up and I’m thrilled to share Shake Up Learning by Kasey Bell!

One thought on “#DBC50Summer 42/50: All 4s and 5s

  1. Pingback: #DBC50Summer Book 41-50 Recap | AliciaRay.com

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