Efforts are leading to higher exam scores, more college credit

Last updated: September 05. 2013 3:24PM - 1312 Views
Lauren Williams Staff Writer

Tommy Macon
Tommy Macon
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More and more high school students in the Sampson County Schools system are taking advantage of the Advanced Placement (AP) courses offered at their schools, according to school officials who are also pleased to see that those students are choosing to end the courses by completing the AP exams and that exam scores are on an upward trend.

Recently, Tommy Macon, assistant superintendent of Academics and Student Services, shared a report which showed a variety of improvements in the school systems’ AP program.

According to the report, 14 AP courses were offered in the 2010-11 school year — one at Union, five at Midway, two at Lakewood, and six at Hobbton. That year, 46 high school students participated in at least one of the AP courses and those students collectively took a total of 69 AP exams. Nineteen percent of those students earned a score of 3 or higher on their exams, making them eligible to receive college credit.

The following school year, 2011-12, the number of AP courses offered jumped to 19 — five at Union, five at Midway, six at Lakewood, and three at Hobbton. The number of students taking AP courses rose to 78, and in total, 102 AP exams were taken. Scores also jumped that year with 26 percent of the AP students scoring a 3 or higher on their exams.

The improvements and growth kept coming this past school year, 2012-13. While 19 AP courses continued to be offered system-wide — four at Union, five at Midway, seven at Lakewood, and four at Hobbton — 86 more students participated than in the previous year, bringing the number of AP students to 164 who collectively took 231 AP exams.

Macon pointed out that these improved numbers equated to a “126 percent increase over the last school year 2011-2012.”

One of the main reasons Macon believes the system’s AP program is improving is because of “the fact that we have teachers going to the AP Summer Institute to become AP certified.”He explained that the training for AP certification “helps them to better provide the rigor and assistance students need.”

“We try to send a minimum of two teachers from each school to the AP Summer Institute every summer and we met that goal this past summer,” he continued, noting that teacher participation is not mandated by the school system. “Each year we’re encouraging our teachers to be AP certified because it helps them learn better practices and raise the bar, regardless of whether they teach an AP course or not.”

And Macon is pleased that so many teachers have become certified or are interested in it. “It’s a voluntary thing; it’s not something we’re mandating…Teachers go and come back and show what they’ve learned and other teachers get interested. We’re excited that they have embraced the AP Summer Institute. It’s something they want to do and it’s really taken off.”

Credit for the improvements is also due to the system’s high school students, pointed out Macon.

“Second of all, our kids are stepping up and taking AP courses,” he noted. “They understand they need to be challenged and that there is the opportunity for them to earn college credit with an AP score of 3 or higher.”

In addition to college credit, “AP courses also help to prepare them for their post-secondary education,” Macon said.

After taking an AP course, “they better understand the type of classes they will taking, the expectations of those classes, and the rigor that is required,” he explained. “It really aids them in being more successful in college.”

With such benefits in mind, the schools system is making AP course offerings a priority.

“We try to have at least one or two of the core classes — like English, social studies, or math — as an AP class at each of the high schools,” Macon continued, “that is taught face-to-face.”

Based on feedback received from students, school officials determined that face-to-face classes are what students respond best to.

“Many AP courses are available online as well,” said Macon. “Some are conducive to online but others like statistics are challenging…students need that face-to-face time.”

Acknowledging that there is always room for more improvement, Macon shared his pleasure with the trend Sampson County Schools is seeing.

“It’s paying off,” he said of the effort being put into the system’s AP program. “More students are receiving college credit now than ever before. At one time, we had maybe one student that would receive college credit but that number has grown a lot because, really, our biggest advocates for the AP courses and exams are the students themselves. They see an opportunity to earn college credit in high school where it’s free and they learn so much. It really prepares them to be better equipped to be successful.”

Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at lwilliams@civitasmedia.com.

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