By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
In November, Madison County Schools became one of the 12 Kentucky districts named to the College Board’s fourth-annual Advanced Placement District Honor Roll.
The honor roll includes 477 public and private districts throughout the United States and Canada that increased access to AP courses for a broader number of students while also maintaining or improving the rate at which their AP students earned passing scores of three or higher (out of a possible five) on an AP exam, according to the College Board.
Chief Academic Officer David Gilliam presented the district’s five-year Advanced Placement data during his AP course report at the Nov. 15 school board meeting.
Advanced Placement courses are designed by the College Board and “are extremely rigorous and put students through a high level of course work,” he said. If a student earns a high enough score on the exam, they also earn college credit.
“That credit is recognized at virtually every college and university in the nation,” Gilliam said. “One of our goals a few years ago was to expand the AP program.”
In 2012, both county high schools started an “AP cohort” of entering freshman who committed to taking AP courses. The selected students met certain benchmarks on standardized tests and completed an application process to become part of the cohort.
Prior to 2010, the number of students taking AP courses hovered around 400, followed by a slow increase during the next two years.
After the start of the cohort, the progression chart presented by Gilliam during his report shows a jump from 450 to 726 students enrolled in AP courses. The number of those who achieved qualifying scores on AP exams also jumped from 130 to 210.
This year, 1,165 students are enrolled in AP courses, but the number of exams taken and qualifying scores are not yet available for this year.
In March, the district entered into an agreement with AdvanceKentucky, a statewide math-science initiative to increase rigorous college-level work in high schools. In partnership with math and science institutes, the program provides support to high schools through matching funds for equipment and supplies. It also offsets some of the costs for exams and teacher training, Gilliam said.
With the help of AdvanceKentucky, Madison County teachers received additional AP training over the summer, he said.
Board chair Mona Isaacs asked what could be done to increase the qualifying score pass rate. According to the 2012-13 data, 726 students enrolled in AP courses, but only 210 of those earned a qualifying score.
Gilliam said the new partnership with AdvanceKentucky should help with the passing rate.
High schools have started additional study sessions outside of school, he said. The additional training for AP teachers through AdvanceKentucky will help as well.
“In order to teach an AP course, your syllabus must be approved through the College Board,” he said. Teachers also must attend two types of training.
Because of budgetary issues, in the past, teachers were typically sent for training once when they begin the AP course and “maybe every five years or so we may send them back.”
But AdvanceKentucky is providing funds to support yearly training for teachers, he said.
The district’s pass rates are very similar to state and national averages, he added.
“One of the things we’ve tried to do is encourage lots of kids to take the test. If we didn’t encourage kids to take the test, unless we knew they would be successful, our pass rate would go up, but our overall number of qualifying exams would not.”
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.