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Advanced Placement Enrollment Goes Through the Roof

Summer 2012

By David Zaslawsky

The number of students taking Advanced Placement courses in the Montgomery Public Schools district has soared in recent years.

Several years ago, the state received money as part of a five-year, $13.2-million national math and science initiative grant to increase the number of AP courses; the number of students taking AP classes; and the number of students making the required score to obtain college credits.

Ann Sikes, executive director of the Montgomery Education Foundation, said that the “goal was to make AP classes more available for kids who maybe had not had that opportunity before or frankly who had not been tapped to participate. The goal was if you raise the bar they will reach it. They will rise to the challenge. It was proven without exception.”

The students did. Alabama ranked No. 1 in the percentage increase of qualifying AP scores from 2008-2011 in math, science and English and minority qualifying scores in the same subjects.

Caroline Novak is president of A+ Education Partnership.
Caroline Novak is president of A+ Education Partnership.

For the 2010-2011 school year, MPS students took a combined 1,787 AP tests and 712 of those tests had the necessary qualifying scores for college credits. From 2010 to 2011, there was a 26 percent increase in the number of exams taken compared with 2010 and a 32 percent increase in the number of qualifying scores.

Go back a little further and there has been a 67 percent increase in AP enrollment since 2009 and a 162 percent increase in students posting the required scores for college credits.

There has been an increase of about 550 percent of minority students enrolled in AP classes from 2007 (132 students) to 2012 (843 students).

“The number of students taking AP classes has gone through the roof,” Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Thompson said. She also pointed out that those AP qualifying scores mean college credits and reducing the number of college courses a student needs. Bottom line: Saving money.

It should be noted that a student might very well be taking more than one AP class, but that still does not minimize the substantial increase in the number of students taking those academically challenging AP classes.

The number of students taking and passing AP tests should continue rising as the district has implemented a Pre-AP program in its middle schools, which will help prepare students for the AP courses in high school.

Caroline Novak, president of A+ Education Partnership, said that in 2008 MPS students had a combined 204 qualifying scores on the AP tests. That was before the A+ College Ready program was launched to increase enrollment in AP classes in science, math and English. Three years after the program was introduced, the number of qualifying scores from schools in the program jumped to 526 and the number of minority students with qualifying scores went from one-fourth to more than half (272) of all the qualifying scores.

Those numbers should continue to grow as another school is expected to join the program this year.

“This is really about a community and a school system that recognizes that all of us do better when we play up,” Sikes said. “There is nothing wrong with being challenged.”


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