School District’s AP courses receive national recognition

WASHINGTON COUNTY – The Washington County School District’s Advanced Placement courses were recently recognized in “College Board’s 5th Annual AP Honor Roll.” 547 school districts throughout the United States and Canada were included on the list which analyzed three years of data from Advanced Placement courses and exams from 2012-2014 – only four districts from Utah were recognized.

According to the Honor Roll released by College Board, the 547 school districts recognized “simultaneously achieved increase in access to Advanced Placement courses for a broader number of students and also maintained or improved the rate at which their AP students earned scores of 3 or higher on an AP Exam.”

The data was analyzed on the following criteria:

  • The district had increased participation/access to AP by at least 4 percent in large districts, at least 6 percent in medium districts, and at least 11 percent in small districts
  • The district increased or maintained the percentage of exams taken by African America, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native students
  • The district improved performance levels when comparing the percentage of students in 2014 scoring a 3 or higher to those in 2012, unless the district has already attained a performance level at which 70 percent of its AP students are scoring a 3 or higher

Advanced Placement courses are college-level classes offered in a variety of subjects that students can take while they are still in high school, according to College Board’s Web page. The course work is more challenging than a typical high school class and often gives students a glimpse of what a college class is like.

Additionally, students enrolled in Advanced Placement courses have the option to take an AP Exam. Students who pass their exam with a score of 3 or higher are eligible to receive college credit in that course subject.

High schools in Washington County School District offer AP courses in 13 different subjects, Director of Assessment and Research Brad Ferguson said, with the most popular subjects being English, U.S. history, calculus, government and psychology.

The district currently has approximately 800 students enrolled in at least one AP course, with many taking several, Ferguson said.

But those high numbers were not always the case.

“A few years ago we sort of stalled,” Ferguson said. “Students weren’t interested in taking AP classes so we changed our thinking. We looked at how students were invited to take AP courses.”

Previously, students wishing to take an Advanced Placement class had to take certain prerequisites and get a teacher to sign off before they were allowed to enroll, but changes in district policy have now opened the doors for any student who feels he or she is up to the challenge, Ferguson said.

“If a student steps up and says they want the AP experience,” Ferguson said, “we take them at their word. If they want to be there, they are in.”

Schools work with students through the AP courses and, should a student feel like it is not right for them, they help put them in another class, Ferguson said, adding that most students find it to be a good experience regardless of whether they get the credit or not.

Being included on College Board’s Honor Roll was not something the district had set out to do, Ferguson said, but they are happy with the accomplishment nonetheless.

“I honestly didn’t know anything about it,” Ferguson said. “We were sent a letter indicating that we had met the requirements including more diversity in the AP classrooms and a high rate of passing (the AP Exam). It just sort of happened but we did it and we are proud of it.”

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