AP test­tak­ers in­crease for CCPS

Pan­thers’ last-sec­ond shot stuns In­di­ans

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - Color Vibe 5K re­turns to Elk­ton By JES­SICA IAN­NETTA


— Ev­ery year around Christ­mas, Ris­ing Sun High School brings re­cent graduates back to talk with cur­rent stu­dents about what it takes to suc­ceed in col­lege.

Last year, sev­eral re­cent graduates talked about the ben­e­fits of the Ad­vanced Place­ment English class they took at Ris­ing Sun. The cur­rent group of stu­dents was def­i­nitely lis­ten­ing, said Anne Gell­rich, the school’s prin­ci­pal.

“This year I have four classes of AP English,” she said. “We try to re­in­force that if you’re go­ing to col­lege, this is what you need to do to pre­pare.”

Ris­ing Sun isn’t the only county high school where more and more stu­dents are sign­ing up for AP classes. Dur­ing the AP test­ing win­dow ear­lier this month, county stu­dents took 1,148 AP tests, nearly dou­ble the 606 tests stu­dents took in 2009.

The num­ber of stu­dents tak­ing the tests has in­creased too – 675 stu­dents took an AP test this year, a nearly 54 per­cent in­crease from the 440 stu­dents who took a test in 2009.

Although par­tic­i­pa­tion is up, at the same time, the num­ber of stu­dents scor­ing a three, four or five on the ex­ams – the min­i­mum score typ­i­cally needed for col­lege credit – has dropped from


about 67 per­cent in 2009 to 55 per­cent in 2015.

But Jeff Law­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of high school ed­u­ca­tion, noted that while the pass­ing rate as a per­cent­age has gone down, the raw num­ber of stu­dents who pass an AP test has in­creased by about 100 stu­dents. But be­yond the per­cent­ages, Law­son said stu­dents ben­e­fit from tak­ing AP classes even when they don’t pass the exam be­cause the stu­dent is ex­posed to a more rig­or­ous cur­ricu­lum.

“It’s im­por­tant that the stu­dents get used to the level of work that’s re­quired out of an AP class. That’s what’s really go­ing to pre­pare them for col­lege,” he said. “Now, I un­der­stand kids come in and they want to earn cred­its and par­ents like it be­cause it off­sets some tu­ition down the road for them. But for me, from a pure learn­ing per­spec­tive, hav­ing that stu­dent in there day in and day out is the real ben­e­fit.”

And the con­cen­trated ef­fort CCPS has put into sell­ing stu­dents on those ben­e­fits is one of the rea­sons the county has seen in­creased in­ter­est in AP tests, Law­son said. CCPS has tried to make par­ents more aware of all the ben­e­fits of AP tests and also do a bet­ter job of iden­ti­fy­ing stu­dents who could suc­ceed in these classes, he said. Many prin­ci­pals have also made in­creas­ing AP par­tic­i­pa­tion part of their school im­prove­ment plans, Law­son added.

The sys­tem has also made other, more struc­tural changes to en­cour­age AP par­tic­i­pa­tion. Three years ago, the school board made a pol­icy change that al­lowed se­niors to take cer­tain AP classes, in­clud­ing AP Gov­ern­ment and AP Hu­man Ge­og­ra­phy, for their 12th grade so­cial stud­ies re­quire­ment. And for many years, CCPS has given ex­tra GPA weight for stu­dents who take AP classes, Law­son said.

In ad­di­tion to all the in­cen­tives, CCPS also has no strict rules about what stu­dents are al­lowed to take the AP classes, Law­son said.

“We are a com­mu­nity ser­vice – that’s what Ce­cil County Pub­lic Schools is and we pro­vide op­por­tu­nity,” Law­son said. “So if a stu­dent comes in and they demon­strate a will­ing­ness to take a class of that rigor, most times if we can ac­com­mo­date them, we will.”

CCPS doesn’t re­quire stu­dents to take the AP test but if a stu­dent doesn’t take it, their grade for the class is weighted like an hon­ors class in­stead of an AP class, Law­son said. Though CCPS doesn’t di­rectly pro­vide fund­ing to off­set the $92 cost of tak­ing the test, the Col­lege Board, which ad­min­is­ters the test, pro­vides fi­nan­cial sup­port for stu­dents who qual­ify for Free and Re­duced Meals (FARM), he added.

But while col­lege credit may be the most ob­vi­ous ben­e­fit of AP classes, at North East High School, stu­dents have one-on-one meet­ings with their guid­ance coun­selors to plan their class sched­ule and the coun­selors fre­quently talk to stu­dents about how their ca­reer in­ter­ests might align with the AP classes of­fered, said David Foye, NEHS prin­ci­pal.

Teach­ers also play a big part in en­cour­ag­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion by go­ing into class­rooms to talk about the AP classes they teach. But when it comes to get­ting stu­dents en­rolled in AP classes, no one is a bet­ter ad­vo­cate of the classes than the stu­dents them­selves, who of­ten un­der­stand even bet­ter than the adults all the ben­e­fits they of­fer, Foye said.

“What we try to do is get our stu­dents ex­posed to col­lege level classes,” he said. “Just be­cause they don’t get a three or four doesn’t mean they didn’t learn some­thing.”


Tylethea and Randy Mathis pose af­ter Tylethea’s grad­u­a­tion from Ce­cil Col­lege on Sun­day.

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