Local schools see increased participation, higher test scores in AP classes

Published 4:16 pm Thursday, September 27, 2012

BY KATIE MCDOWELL/Lifestyles Editor

Two Shelby County schools saw the number of students participating in AP classes increase following the implementation of the A+ College Ready Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program.

Shelby County High Principal Gene Rogers and Calera High Principal Richard Bishop said they saw increases in the number of students both taking and passing core AP tests since they began using the program.

“We saw a dramatic increase in the number of students stepping up and taking these college prep classes,” Rogers said in an email interview. “We had already been working to meet the needs of our students who were interested in taking Pre-AP and AP courses and the help from the grant came at a perfect time.”

The A+ College Ready Program provides a $10,000 annual grant to participating schools, which must commit to three years. While AP classes, which are college-level courses, are available in a range of studies, the program focuses on English, math and science.

The program includes:

– Professional development for AP teachers,

– Quarterly assessments and tutoring for AP students with professional instructors,

– Funds for class supplies or literature,

– Funds to cover the cost of students’ AP examinations.

Twelve schools were added to the statewide program this year, including Montevallo High and Vincent High, bringing the total to 76, according to a press release from the Alabama Department of Education.

Shelby County High saw the number of students enrolled in AP classes increase from 106 in 2010-2011 to 155 in 2011-2012 and 198 in 2012-2013.

“We are communicating to our students that each college bound student should take an AP course prior to graduation,” Rogers said.

At Calera High, 96 students participated in AP math, science or English courses in the 2011-2012 school year, compared to 28 the previous year.

Both schools have also been able to increase the number of AP classes offered. Shelby County High added AP language, AP biology and several pre-AP courses for underclassmen. Calera High added AP chemistry and AP English 11, and Vincent High added AP English 11 and AP calculus.

Bishop said Calera High also has seen an increase in the number of AP examinations students take at the end of the class. The tests cost $89 each, but the program covers the fee for students in participating schools.

Students who receive a qualifying score – typically a 3 or higher on a 1-5 scale – may be able to receive college credit for that class.

“That’s a potential thousand-dollar savings if you pass the test,” Bishop said, referring to the price of a college course.

Last year, 32 Calera High students passed three AP tests, compared to 12 students the previous year.

Vincent High Principal Joel Dixon, who served as assistant principal at Calera High last year when the program was implemented there, said the program has a school-wide effect. Teachers who receive the training use those skills in their other classes, and other teachers also adopt the practices, he said.

“What it did in Calera and what I hope it does at Vincent is you see AP mentality start to permeate the entire school,” he said. “It really is a cultural shift in your school to an increased degree of rigor.”