All three schools were recognized as AP STEM Schools, which are defined as schools with students testing in at least two AP math courses and two AP science courses. Cartersville High and WHS were recognized as AP Stem Achievement Schools, with students testing in at least two AP math courses, two AP science courses and at least 40 percent of the exam scores on AP math and AP science exams earning scores of 3 or higher.
“I think [state recognition is] a reflection of the academic rigor we embrace here and it’s consistant with our school’s philosophy of trying to push kids forward by providing increased opportunities,” Cartersville High School Principal Steve Butler said.
He said as student interest in AP courses grows and college entry requirements become more demanding, the school aims to offer additional AP courses.
“In line with [our philosophy], for example, we’ve added AP government this year and we plan next year to add AP microeconomics and AP art history to our offerings,” Butler said.
At WHS, English instructor Heather Candela has been the school’s AP coordinator for the past eight years, recruiting students for the school’s 14 AP courses. She also said the school’s number of AP classes has grown over recent years.
“In the last couple of years we’ve added AP psychology, which has been a huge draw for our kids, and this year we’ve added [AP] Calculus BC for the first time, which is kind of an added incentive for some of those kids looking to go into engineering,” Candela said. “We’re working on building our math and science because of AP STEM, but all of our [AP] courses have been successful.”
She said while students can gain college credit from the courses, the overall intent is college preparation.
“For us, we believe the benefit is taking those classes and revving up the rigor so they’re ready for a four-year college,” Candela said. “The schools that are more competitive to get into would prefer to see an Advanced Placement class because the rigor is nationally judged and based, and so the teachers are submitting a course syllabus, which gets audited at College Board and makes sure teachers are trained for Advanced Placement, and that they’re following a syllabus that meets College Board requirements.”
Seniors Abe Miller and Mallory Fleming both said they have appreciated being able to take various college-level courses while attending WHS.
Miller said he plans to major in music production and technology, likely at Georgia State University.
“I’ve done honors [courses] my freshman and sophomore year, and [AP] is the next step,” Miller said. “It makes you feel more college-ready and it also gives you college credit.”
Fleming, who said she plans to double major in general music and English at the University of Alabama, began taking AP courses her sophomore year.
“The first class was AP history, and what encouraged me to take AP was I wanted the extra challenge that an honors class wouldn’t have,” Miller said. “The greater workload sometimes puts a lot of stress on me, but I’m taking four AP classes this year and I feel we go into more depth with the material and so that helps for later on.”
Cass High Principal Michael Nelson said when being recognized by the state for its AP efforts, it was important to give credit to the work of both students and teachers.
“It is a reflection of our students taking on a more rigorous course load and course work and meeting those standards to prepare for college after high school, and also its a reflection of the hard work our teachers are doing in challenging our students to get into these programs that are more rigorous and challenging,” Nelson said.
He said one reason the school continues to expand its AP offerings is to help students preparing to pay for college.
“Part of the HOPE [Scholarship] requirements that are changing are requiring our kids to take some of these higher level courses to be HOPE eligible to receive some of that state funding, so that is affecting the AP classes as well,” Nelson said.
Georgia has moved up to 12th in the nation in the percentage of seniors scoring a 3 or higher — a passing score — on AP exams, according to The College Board’s AP Report to the Nation released last week. Georgia ranked 13th in the nation last year.
This report measures progress of the Class of 2012. When results are broken out by subgroup, Georgia’s African-American students rank second in the nation, behind Washington, D.C., in the percentage of seniors scoring a 3 or higher on AP exams. Georgia’s 10-year increase, or 10.1 percent, in the percentage of seniors scoring a 3 or higher on AP exams also shows impressive results, ranking ninth in the nation.
Georgia is also a national leader when it comes to public school students enrolling in AP courses and taking the exams. Only five other states in the country had a greater percentage of AP exam takers last year. The percentage of Georgia seniors who took an AP exam was 41.1 percent, compared to 32.4 percent for the nation.
“Georgia’s students continue to outperform most of their peers throughout the country on Advanced Placement exams,” State School Superintendent John Barge said in a press release. “These results show that Georgia’s students can compete against any students in the nation. Just as SAT results get everyone’s attention, I think the performance of our students on Advanced Placement exams deserves the same attention.”
Gov. Nathan Deal added, “The continued high scores of all Georgia students on AP exams are certainly cause for celebration. Advanced Placement courses help students develop college-level academic skills, and passing scores on those exams help students earn college credit for the knowledge they’ve gained. Georgia’s improvement on the percentage of seniors earning a three or better on AP exams represents a good deal — for our students and our state.”
Advanced Placement classes and exams are administered by the College Board, which also administers the SAT. AP classes offer rigorous college-level learning options to students in high school. Students who receive a 3, 4 or 5 on AP exams may receive college credit. The AP Report to the Nation looks at data for 2012 high school seniors.
Among Georgia’s public high school seniors in 2012, there has been a steady increase in the number of Georgia’s public school students benefitting from the AP experience:
• The number of public school graduates leaving high school having taken an AP Exam in Georgia has increased by 149 percent in the last decade.
• 21.7 percent of students from Georgia’s public high school class of 2012 scored 3 or higher on at least one AP exam during high school — ranking Georgia 12th in the nation — compared to 19.5 percent for the nation.
• 41.1 percent of graduates from Georgia’s public high school class of 2012 took at least one AP Exam during high school, compared to 28.3 percent from the class of 2007 and 20.5 percent from the class of 2002.
• Georgia is ninth in the nation when comparing the 10-year increase of seniors scoring a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam, with 10.1 percent growth compared to 7.9 percent for the nation.
• The number of African-American graduates who took at least one AP exam during high school nearly doubled in five years, from 4,555 to 8,900. The number of these students who scored 3 or higher on at least one AP exam more than doubled, from 1,086 to 2,417.
• 13.6 percent of African-American students from Georgia’s public high school class of 2012 scored 3 or higher on at least one AP exam during high school, ranking Georgia No. 2 in the nation, compared to 4.4 percent for the nation.
More of Georgia’s traditionally underserved public high school graduates are participating and succeeding in AP:
• The number of low-income graduates who took at least one AP exam during high school increased from 2,665 in the class of 2007 to 9,806 in the class of 2012. The number of these students who scored 3 or higher on at least one AP exam increased from 880 to 3,641.
• The number of Hispanic/Latino graduates who took at least one AP exam during high increased from 995 for the class of 2007 to 2,488 for the class of 2012. The number of these students who scored 3 or higher on at least one AP exam more than doubled during that time, from 599 to 1,375. 7.9 percent of Georgia’s graduating class of 2012 was Hispanic/Latino, and 7.4 percent of successful AP exam takers from the 2012 graduating class were Hispanic/Latino.
• The 10 most popular AP exams taken by Georgia public high school graduates during high school, in descending order of popularity, were U.S. history, English language and composition, world history, English literature and composition, U.S. government and politics, Calculus AB, psychology, statistics, biology and macroeconomics.
State efforts to increase AP participation
The State of Georgia has undertaken many successful efforts to increase participation in AP programs and success on AP exams. From 2003 to 2010, the Georgia Legislature approved funds to pay for students to take at least one AP exam per year. For those seven years, economically disadvantaged students had all of their AP exams paid for each year.
Budget cuts reduced that support to only one AP exam for economically disadvantaged students beginning in May 2011 and that support remains in place. The Georgia Department of Education has organized the distribution of AP Teacher Training Grants. Since 2006, GaDOE has funded approximately $1,592,493 in grant awards to train 2,264 new AP teachers. These awards have allowed 1,147 new AP courses to be offered in public high schools throughout the state. It is anticipated that in 2013 an additional 200 AP teachers will be trained. The GaDOE has sponsored regional workshops for teachers of AP for the past six years. These workshops are led by master teachers of AP in Georgia high schools. To date, more than 3,303 AP teachers have participated in these course-specific workshops.
The Georgia Virtual School currently offers 25 AP classes, increasing access to students throughout the state, including those that might not otherwise be able to take an AP class. More than 1,350 students took an AP course with GAVS for the 2012 to 2013 school year.
Research shows that students who took AP math or science exams were more likely than non-AP students to earn degrees in physical science, engineering or life science disciplines. AP courses and exams are currently offered in the following STEM subjects: biology, Calculus AB, Calculus BC, chemistry, Computer Science A, environmental science, Physics B, Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism, and Physics C: Mechanics, Statistics.