Dr. Don Blaheta, associate professor of computer science at Longwood University, has been appointed chief reader of the Advanced Placement (AP) exam for computer science—a prestigious leadership position in charge of overseeing the scoring process for AP exams taken by high school seniors around the country.
Each year in early June, high school AP teachers and college faculty members from around the country gather for the AP Reading, a forum to evaluate and score the free-response sections of the AP exams. Blaheta will be one of just 32 chief readers, who are responsible for overseeing scoring activities for over 18,000 AP readers across 38 different subjects.
I attend the meetings of the Development Committee to provide some insights about scoring the exam they've written. I like that they value my opinion and feedback. So that’s Longwood’s voice talking to these national organizations.Dr. Don Blaheta, associate professor of computer science Tweet This
As chief reader for the AP Computer Science A exam, Blaheta will supervise roughly 400 other AP readers as they score more than 75,000 exams, ensuring that students receive fair and valid scores.
“It really is important because this is a national role,” Blaheta said. “A lot of colleagues become an editor of a journal in their field. In a lot of ways this is kind of a similar role on the teaching and scoring side rather than on the scholarship side.”
Blaheta has been an AP computer science exam reader since 2006 and has steadily moved up the leadership ladder. For close to a decade, he’s been an exam leader. His four-year term as chief reader will be up in the summer of 2027, when he will then train the next leader.
As chief reader, Blaheta also has a part in helping to develop the AP computer science test.
“The chief reader is among the group that looks at the draft exam and double checks that it’s going to be scoreable,” he said. “I attend the meetings of the Development Committee to provide some insights about scoring the exam they've written. I like that they value my opinion and feedback. So that’s Longwood’s voice talking to these national organizations.”
The AP Program allows academically prepared high school students to pursue college-level studies with the opportunity to earn college credit, advanced placement or both. In 2022, over 2.6 million students took more than 4.7 million AP exams.
The AP computer science exam scoring takes place in Kansas City, where Blaheta will go in late May to begin preparations for the reading. Since 2020, some of the readers participate virtually.
Blaheta said he has gained valuable experience from his years as an AP exam reader that he then incorporates into his classes at Longwood.
“The professional development for high school teachers is obvious,” he said. “But it’s a little more surprising to people how much professional development you can get as a college instructor from being able to talk to a couple hundred other people who are teaching essentially the same course and similar courses and swapping notes with them.”
Blaheta has been teaching at Longwood since 2011. He has a Ph.D. in computer science, a Master of Science in computer science, and a Master of Arts in linguistics from Brown University. He also has bachelor’s degrees in computer science and math from Quincy University in Illinois.