My First Year as Coordinator
By AP Coordinator Elizabeth Rodenhizer, Choate Rosemary Hall, Wallingford, Connecticut
Elizabeth Rodenhizer serves as the testing coordinator at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Connecticut. Below she narrates some of the challenges and rewards she encountered upon becoming an AP Coordinator.
Learning the ropes
"After spending 13 years at home raising three boys, I rejoined the educational work force in 1999 as the testing coordinator at Choate Rosemary Hall. As a former educator, I welcomed the opportunity to work outside of the classroom yet within the field of education. My responsibilities as testing coordinator initially included coordinating six SAT® and two ACT administrations each year and eventually evolved to also include administering the PSAT/NMSQT, serving as SSD Coordinator, and finally, working as my school's AP Coordinator.
"As a new AP Coordinator in 2002, I was a little overwhelmed by the thought of organizing and administering over 700 AP Exams to the students at my school. Often I was in a fog, not knowing where I was going or how I was going to get there. Looking back, I see resources that I wish I had accessed. I learned a great deal that first year. I certainly made some mistakes, but I know that this year's administration was more streamlined because of my experience from the year before.
"AP Central® and collegeboard.com proved to be wonderful resources. Downloading the AP Coordinator's Manual and reading it through helped me understand how the administration would be structured. One thing I regret is not attending a workshop for new Coordinators in the months prior to the administration. These free workshops help new Coordinators prepare for and manage the AP Exam administration.
Setting up a database
"The most difficult obstacle that I encountered was setting up a database. My knowledge of Microsoft Excel was limited, so I was saddled with learning the computer program and creating a database at the same time. I didn't know what I needed to do with the data, nor did I know how to work with the program to get the job done—all I knew was that I needed a database to keep all of the information organized. I eventually created a basic Excel spreadsheet with fields for grade level, student name, phone number, special accommodations, and columns for each exam. Shading fields for fee-waiver-eligible students was helpful to track data.
"I used the same spreadsheet to total the number of exams for each course, create exam rosters, formulate charges, and prepare labels for the candidate packs. At each step in the process, I discovered something else that I needed from my database. A good database can be programmed to determine fees, track late charges, and add alternate fees. I used all of this information for student billing and generating my online invoice after the exams had been administered.
Minding the details
"Paying attention to all of the little details is essential. I spent several weeks charting details on my bulletin boards—tracking room assignments, staff assignments, special equipment, exam rosters, and special accommodations. I am sure that I wasted a great deal of time working with these charts, but as a first-time Coordinator, organizing the tasks this way helped me to make sure nothing was overlooked. I eventually condensed the charts and put the information into an Excel spreadsheet for reference, but only when I knew all of the details that I needed to manage.
"My greatest concern was making sure to order every exam that students wanted to take. Under- or over-ordering would be embarrassing and expensive. Accuracy was imperative. I posted our exam rosters for the students to check prior to submitting my online order; this gave students a chance to inquire about any discrepancies. This was reassuring for me and gave each student a chance to make certain the appropriate exams would be ordered.
"Checking the shipments and being prepared for the unexpected is a must. Organizing the test materials as they arrive is important for a smooth-running administration. Take the time to check each and every booklet. Be sure to check them against the packing slip and the online order confirmation. Notify AP Services if you notice any discrepancies immediately.
Preparing for the unexpected pays off
"Having extra staff available for the unexpected was another valuable lesson I learned. During the administration, a proctor canceled at the eleventh hour, and I had to scramble to find a replacement. I strongly suggest having a few substitute proctors on call who are familiar with the program and can report at a moment's notice.
"When the exam administrations were under way, everything fell into place. For the most part, the exam days went smoothly because of the time and preparation I had done beforehand. Organizing the registrations and taking care of all the little details was much more difficult than actually administering the exams.
"When the exams were over and the boxes packed, the invoice completed, and the check in the mail, I felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment and personal reward. Hard work and long hours certainly paid off. I learned a lot in my first year as an AP Coordinator, but I made note of my mistakes and will use what I learned for future successful administrations."