Pelham schools awarded College Ready, Laying the Foundation grants

Published 1:47 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Pelham High School and Riverchase Middle School receive grants geared toward improving college readiness and AP success. (Contributed)

Pelham High School and Riverchase Middle School receive grants geared toward improving college readiness and AP success. (Contributed)

By JESSA PEASE / Staff Writer

PELHAM— Riverchase Middle School and Pelham High School were recently awarded A+ College Ready and Laying the Foundation grants, which will provide new opportunities for students in the Pelham school system.

“We all want to push the rigor of what we are offering our kids,” said Pelham High School Principal Dr. Jason Yohn at a Feb. 29 Board of Education meeting. “I want to do that as a parent. I want to do that as a principal because I think our kids deserve that.”

Last spring, PHS students took a total of 190 AP exams, and Yohn said about 210 exams will be taken this year. These courses are about getting students ready for college, he said.

AP exams cost about $92 per test. Yohn said this grant should allow students in the free and reduced lunch program to take the exams for free and reduce the price to $37 per exam for other students in the 2016-2017 school year.

Mock exams and Saturday study sessions are major components of the grant programs, according to Yohn, which will help ensure students gain college credit for the AP courses.

The grant should also provide about $18,000 for Laying the Foundation and advanced placement professional development training for teachers, Yohn said.

“We’re going to be training tons of teachers again this summer and it’s not going to cost you a single penny, which is very beneficial for the school system,” he said. “It allows us to train a lot more people.”

Students at Riverchase Middle School are also being challenged with higher-level courses, according to RMS Principal Susan Hyatt. The school currently offers Laying the Foundation courses in math for sixth through eighth grade students, and eighth-graders also have a science course available.

“I think we are really going to see that impact as they continue their education through middle school and go on up to high school,” Hyatt said. “There is going to be a huge payoff.”

About 57 percent of the students are enrolled in higher-level courses, according to Hyatt.

She said they plan to add more Laying the Foundation courses in the 2016-2017 school year in subjects such as social studies and addition sciences.

Aligning with the grants are the college and career readiness indicators at Pelham High School, PHS assistant principal Amanda Wilbanks said.

She said the school pays close attention to those and that students often qualify under one or more indicators before graduating.

There are seven ways to earn college and career ready indicators: Benchmarking on the ACT or Work Keys, earning college credit through early college acceptance or dual enrollment, qualifying for career credentials, earning a qualifying AP exam score or enlisting in the military.

The new academies at the high school and academy-aligned clubs at the intermediate school aid students in being college and career ready as well, said curriculum supervisor Shannon Bogert.

“We are successful, and I’m so excited because I think we are going to have more and more success every year,” Bogert said. “We offer a very robust curriculum.”