The following is a bit of history and rationale for the pre-AP English and AP English summer reading program.
When Roanoke County Schools adopted the College Board's Advance Placement program, it put in place curricular practices and supports to ensure every opportunity for our students' success. Among these were requirements for teacher training, investment in supplemental texts, completely revamped curriculum guides, and the required summer reading policy (Policy 6.19 - see below). The AP curriculum, and the reading associated with it, is so voluminous that it necessitates a head start, so-to-speak. Please see the AP English frequency list below. When looked at from the view of accumulated time-in-text and analytical skill building, a student who starts pre-AP in grade 6 will have read and critically analyzed more than 6000 pages of literature - just in summer reading - before they hit AP Eng 11. This is such an advantage for Roanoke County students, not only for the AP tests in grades 11 and 12, but also as they head to college. RCPS students significantly outperform local, state, and national averages on both AP Eng 11 and 12 tests. Sometimes those higher AP scores are the reason our students are accepted to a particular college over other districts’ students. All things being equal, the higher AP scores tip the scales. In addition, a high score can result in credit for a class, and that means real money saved on college tuition. For these reasons, the required summer reading has been very good for our students. The down side is, it is a means to end and not an end in itself. In other words, it was never designed to promote reading - it is design to support the academic success of the student and in this, it has been highly effective.
The school board policy related to summer reading is below. In a nutshell, RCPS teachers must assign at least two books and create a corresponding assignment for each book to be completed prior to the start of class. Each teacher submits a copy of his or her summer reading assignment to his or her department chair who, in turn, forwards it to the Supervisor of English. The assignments are reviewed for parity between the teachers and schools. This helps to keep all students in any given grade level reading approximately the same number of pages and completing the same volume of work. For instance, if a ninth grade teacher assigns twice the number of pages, or asks the students to write considerably more analysis than the other ninth grade teachers around the county, that teacher reworks and resubmits those assignments. Beyond this, schools and individual teachers are responsible for selecting the works to be read and designing the associated assignments. The only exceptions to this are the rising Pre AP English 6th and rising Pre AP English 7th summer reading assignments. Every rising 6th and 7th grade student will complete the same assignment as the other grade 6 and grade 7 Pre AP English students respectively.
Given our students’ success and the fact that we have regular and college bound English options, summer reading program continues to be an important part of the Roanoke County English curriculum.