The Art and Teaching of John Robrock

Advanced Placement - Studio Art

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I began teaching at SBHS in the 2001/02 school year, the first year that SBHS offered Advanced Placement (AP) Studio Art. AP Studio Art is the only AP subject that does not have a written exam to document that first year college level work was achieved - an art portfolio must be submitted to fulfill the requirements: five original artworks and a set of 22 slides documenting original artworks that meet specified criteria. The portfolios are grade with AP scores of 0 to 5. The college that the student attends grants college credit according to their standards for the AP scores.

Here is a summary of the AP Studio Art program to date:

2001/0: 9 students enrolled, 0 AP portfolios; Students had me as instructor for the first time, declined to work to my standards

2002/03: 9 students enrolled, 4 submitted AP portfolios; scores were one 5 and three 3s.

2003/04: 11 students enrolled, 9 submitted AP portfolios; scores were three 4s, three 3s and three unreported; Two seniors submitted a second portfolio for additional AP credits.

2004/05: 23 students enrolled and to get a passing grade, they must submit a portfolio; 1 junior will be repeating for additional AP credit.

While the first year was disappointing, I was intrigued to learn that it was consistent with the experiences of Jaime Escalante and his AP Calculus students in East Los Angeles and then Sacramento. An article in "Reason" magazine (also here) examined what happened to Escalante’s AP Calculus courses in East Los Angeles, ten years after attracting international fame in the movie “Stand and Deliver.” From his research, the author believes that the movie was 90% accurate but that the inaccurate 10% was significant and leaves a dangerous false impression: viewers think that the students went from not being to do simple fractions to performing advanced calculus in one year when in fact it took ten years to build up the program to that level of achievement. Apparently Escalante and his school’s administration devoted a lot of resources to teacher training and mentoring, building up the quality of the beginning math courses that would feed into the program, special summer institutes to further encourage the gifted and even working to influence the math programs of the junior high schools below them.

In the first year, I believe that many of the students who registered for AP did not fully comprehend the portfolio requirements in advance, nor grasp the extent of the investment of time and effort that would be required. They also had varying skills gained in beginning art courses with other instructors. Now, almost all students who register as AP students have heard about the requirements from me, seen them in writing together with a poster of student artworks, and had opportunities to view example student portfolios from SBHS students or online. Before admittance to the AP class, I know they are appropriately prepared for advanced work.

San Benito County 2003 Environmental Art Calendar