Using Personal Progress Checks in AP Classroom

For a more recent and in-depth look at other AP® Classroom features, check out my other blog post on AP® Classroom Features and Best Practices.

Today I ventured into new territory with my AP®* Literature students: online practice testing. This feature is called the Personal Progress Check and it’s available on AP® Classroom, a site released in 2019. Until today I’ve resisted online assessments in favor of pencil and paper, mostly because I’ve found it too hard to avoid cheating. However, with College Board rolling out their new AP® Classroom feature, I decided to give it a shot. I began by assigning a multiple choice progress check. Overall, although the website takes some exploring to fully understand, I found the process useful in terms of the data it provided.

*AP® is a trademark registered by the College Board, which is not affiliated with, and does not endorse, this website.

AP Classroom Personal Progress Check Tracker and AP Lit Task Cards
I used these resources in combination with the tools on AP® Classroom for this lesson.

*Disclaimer: The College Board does not recommend using the assessments on AP® classroom for any kind of grade. In fact, if teachers use these assessments for any kind of recorded formative or summative grade, they can risk their class’ status as an AP® class. Instead of assessing skills for your gradebook, use these tools to prepare your students for the AP® Exam.

Step 1 – Prepare Yourself for AP® Classroom

Log in

Before even beginning to introduce AP® Classroom to your students, I suggest spending some time navigating the site yourself. In my attempt to fully understand it, I ended up creating a fake student’s name and registering myself in my class. Big mistake, as I believe I also ended up registering for the AP® Lit exam in May!). But between my blunder and your time exploring, you should be able to understand its features.

AP Central Homepage
This is what my home page looks like when I log into AP® Planner. You’ll see the link for AP® Classroom on the bottom right.

To get to AP® Classroom you’ll need to log into AP® Planner first, which is a web page run by College Board. Use your College Board login info here, which you should have already from a course audit. If you are a first-year teacher or one who has not ever used College Board, you should be able to create your own login information. However, I would suggest letting your AP® Coordinator know that you did this just to be safe.

Another thing to talk to your AP® Coordinator about is getting your AP® Classroom code. Chances are, he or she has set up your course for you. If they have, simply get your code (it should be 6 random letters) and enter it to claim your class. If they haven’t, or you have no AP® Coordinator, you can create your own class. Once you do, a code will be provided. You’ll need this later to enroll your students.

AP® Classroom View

Once you’ve logged in, you’ll be shown a home page with important dates for AP® teachers and coordinators. Scroll down a little and click AP® Classroom (on the right). Fun fact, if you look to the top right you’ll see a button that says Student View. I did not know this when I created my phony student page, but it shows you what a sample AP® Classroom looks like to students. Click around and explore the features of the site, but maybe avoid assigning a unit until you’re sure you are ready. I’ve heard of people having a hard time “unassigning” a unit.

If you’re unfamiliar with the site, you’ll want to learn about the different Personal Progress Checks, or PPCs, that you can assign students to track their progress. You can assign PPCs in multiple choice form (MCQs) or free response questions (FRQs). AP® Classroom also has a growing list of questions in a Question Bank which can be targeted towards specific skills. However, some of those questions are still under construction. If you’re a newbie or still easing into this online testing thing, I’d keep your eye on those but don’t touch them for now. The PPCs are great to use as-is and shouldn’t need customization.

Step 2 – Prepare Your Students for AP® Classroom

Walk them through

On a day before you give your first Personal Progress Check, walk your students through registering with AP® Classroom. When I did this, many of my students already had a login with College Board due to previous AP® tests (the login link is the same as the teachers’). However, some did not, and more had forgotten their credentials. Give them at least 5 minutes to register with College Board, and make sure they save their credentials to their computer (and even write them down) so the process can be quick the next time.

Distribute your code

Once registered, all they need to use AP® Classroom is your course code, available on your teacher page. Their login screen will look similar to the teacher’s screen. Again, ask them to scroll down and click on AP® Classroom. When I did this, I had not yet assigned any Personal Progress Checks to my students. However, they were still able to navigate the different tabs and see where units would show up once they were assigned. I made sure that each student not only logged in, but clicked on AP® Classroom, found the tab that said Units to see the different Personal Progress Checks that were currently locked. Altogether, this registration process took us about 10 minutes. I’d budget for longer time with a bigger group, as some other classes experienced wifi issues.

I want to emphasize again the importance of doing this step on a day before you intend to assign it. Many teachers lost a full day because they ran into technical difficulties, or a student fell behind because of login issues. I did this two days before I needed it to be cautious and it led to a pain-free PPC during our scheduled time.

Step 3 – Assign & Take the Personal Progress Check

AP Classroom Personal Progress Check Results
To assign a PPC, click on the Progress Checks tab on the top.

Assign your Personal Progress Check (PPC)

Once your students are registered with AP® Classroom, you can assign your first Personal Progress Check. Simply log in to AP® Classroom and click on the tab that says Progress Checks. Select your unit and question type and click Assign. A box will show up. Make sure you check each class that you want to take the PPC. You can also toggle Unlock the assessment now (or do it later if you want), as well as give a time limit, a due date, and whether or not you want students to see their results. I’m indifferent on time limits, but I strongly suggest you allow students to see their results. They won’t be able to see them until you mark the assignment complete, and the data they collect from their scores will be useful later.

You can assign the PPC to be completed outside of class or provide time in class. I gave students time during our block period and they all finished in 30 minutes. I highly recommend printing out the passages for our MCQ so students can annotate the text. Printed passages also make it easier to refer back to the text when discussing it later. You may not want to, but I chose to take the assessment with the students by reading the questions from the Preview button. We spend at least 30 minutes of every Thursday doing independent reading, so as they read I looked over the data.

Step 4 – Study the Data Yourself

Once my students were finished and off to independent reading, I logged into AP® Classroom and marked the Personal Progress Check as complete. This populated the student data so I could see it. First of all, you see an overview of your class’ performance (see below). You can also click on your individual students to see how each student fared.

AP Classroom Personal Progress Check Results
The Progress Check Dashboard once a PPC is finished

I clicked on View Results to the right of the colored bar and I was able to see my students’ individual scores on each question. It only took a few minutes to sort my students into three groups based on their weakest standard. I then accessed the questions listed below each skill on the new AP® Lit CED, selecting one central question for my student groups to review. These questions are paired with the essential skill on my AP® Lit Task Cards, for sale in my TpT store. You can see how we used them in the pictures below.

Step 5 – Guide the Students Through Data Study and Goal-Setting

For the last 20 minutes of class, I passed out forms that I created to track data from the PPC. These forms go beyond the data tracking done on AP® Classroom as they ask students to reflect on their data and create goals. These forms are available in my TpT store for free, just click here!

AP Classroom Personal Progress Check Tracker
A student tracking her scores on our data tracking sheet. She later used this data to create goals for our next PPC.
AP Classroom Personal Progress Check Tracker
This student group scored lower on Setting 2.A, so the red task card asked a standard-based question for them to re-approach their most troublesome text.

I placed students in groups based on their data and we reflected on weak spots in the assessment. I asked each group to reflect on the question included in their standard’s task card and apply it to one of the texts from the PPC. These group discussions helped students compare their interpretations of the text and the questions with their peers in order to look at them in a different light. Finally, students returned to their data sheets and created goals for their next PPC. The forms are being stored in my classroom for them to access anytime.

My Assessment of the Personal Progress Check Process

Looking for a year’s worth of AP® Lit materials? Check out my full course, available for purchase from TpT.

Overall, I felt very pleased with the overall assessment process of AP® Classroom. I’ve always struggled with multiple choice practice tests in my own classes because I wasn’t able to provide much for feedback or ideas to build off in our lessons. While I have separate issues with AP® Classroom (like their horrid question bank), I like how the Personal Progress Check brings each question back to a focused skill and that those skills are easy to track.

I plan on using these forms and the PPC data to gauge our progress at the semester break. If certain skills are testing lower than others I can adjust my lessons to strengthen these weaknesses for the second half of the year. I also pair these with my AP® Lit task cards when we need to zero in on a particular skill.

One Year Later

Obviously the 2020 school year did not end up the way anyone expected. This system is still in place and AP® Classroom and Personal Progress Checks remain a useful tool for all AP ®teachers. To hear feedback and teaching strategies from participants in the 2020 AP® Lit Online scoring, check out this post.

Looking for more help with AP® Lit? Join my email list for weekly articles, resources, and strategies about AP® Lit and get a free resource on writing tips when you sign up! I’ve been teaching AP® English Literature for my entire teaching career (on year 14 as I write this) and have read for the exam 5 times. If you’re interested in getting more help, I have a Teachers Pay Teachers store with hundreds of AP® Lit resources, many of which are free!

15 thoughts on “Using Personal Progress Checks in AP Classroom”

  1. I don’t know of anyone who has assigned an FRQ–Do you know how those are scored? Who scores them and what’s the turn around?

    1. They are scored by the instructor (us). The FRQs won’t be too different from an in class timed writing, except they can type them and they are aligned with skills.

  2. I’m having trouble understanding your instructions at the end of Step 4. How do you easily sort them into groups and then are you giving them a new question or using the question from the practice test? Then, how does that correlate with the task cards? (I purchased the task cards, but there are multiple cards for each skill)

    1. Thanks for the question Robin! I hope this makes sense as it’s kind of hard to explain: I studied my students’ scores and determined the lowest skill performance for each kid. For example, I had about four who struggled with structure on the 2nd excerpt. I picked out one task card from structure, the one that I thought fit the excerpt the best, and asked that group of students to use that same textual excerpt to respond to the question on the task card. Because the questions on the task cards are more open-ended, it helped ease them back into our conversation on structure and see where they may have misunderstood the question or misinterpreted the text. I did this with the whole class and picked one task card for each group, based on their problem skill and the excerpt(s) they struggled with.

  3. Just a quick question before I assign this to the kids. Do you put a timer on it or just trust them to finish it within a reasonable time?

  4. Can you point to the language on the College Board’s website which indicates that the progress checks should not be used as formative or summative grades? Thanks!

    1. P. 4 of the CED – “Because Personal Progress Checks are formative, the results of those assessments cannot be used to evaluate teacher effectiveness or assign letter grades to students, and any such misuses are grounds for losing school authorization to offer AP courses.”

  5. Can you point me to where the AP instructs not to use the progress checks as grades in class? Thank you!

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