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State gets high marks for AP scores

Even as the governor celebrates Alabama’s marked improvement in student performance on Advance Placement tests, local school officials are seeking ways to encourage more students to participate in the program.

On Monday, Gov. Bob Riley announced that Alabama showed the greatest percentage of increase in the number of students scoring a passing grade on AP tests at 17.7 percent, according to a report released by the Collage Board, which administers the AP tests. Alabama also showed major improvements in the total number of students taking AP tests as well as minority student participation and performance on AP tests.

“These results speak for themselves,” Riley said in a press release. “The innovations we have made in Alabama schools are resulting in more participation and higher achievement in AP courses. That means more Alabama students have the opportunities they deserve, no matter where they live.”

In the Troy City Schools, a continued emphasis on expanding the AP offerings is showing signs of effectiveness, said Dr. Linda Felton-Smith, superintendent. “We have offered AP courses for many years, but we have refocused our efforts in the past six or seven years and have seen student enrollment increase.”

A combination of on-campus enrollment in classes such as AP art, AP English and AP Biology is combined with offerings through the ACCESS Distance Learning Lab, courses such as AP US History and AP Calculus. “We offer classes whenever we have 12 students enroll,” Felton-Smith said. For others, the ACCESS program expands the offerings.

And, the ACCESS program was cited by state Superintedent Joe Morton as one of the reasons for Alabama’s substantial gains in participation and performance, citing the 14 AP courses offered through ACCESS and other innovative Alabama education initiatives.

“ACCESS Distance learning, the Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI) and the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) have all been contributing factors to the increase in AP achievement and the overall rise in academic success in Alabama. With ACCESS, students now have educational opportunities that would have been impossible just a few short years ago,” Morton said. “The success of ARI, AMSTI and the ACCESS distance learning program has set Alabama apart as a leader in education reform.”

ACCESS (Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators and Students Statewide) uses online and interactive video conferencing technology to link classrooms and offer coursework to students in schools where those courses may not be available. Because of ACCESS, 150 Alabama schools now offer AP classes when previously they could not.

The College Board report shows:

•Since 2009 the number of AP Exam takers in Alabamaís public schools has increased 18.1 percent, as compared to a 9.5 percent increase nationwide

•From 2006 to 2010 – the number of AP Exam takers in Alabama public schools has increased 125.3 percent

The number of AP Exams administered to Alabama’s  public school students increased 143.7 percent

The number of AP grades 3-5 received by Alabama’s public school AP Exam takers increased 79.2 percent

• Alabama’s African American student participation continues to soar

Alabama has the seventh greatest one-year percentage increase – 28.5 percent – in the number of AP Exams administered to black students when compared to all other states

Alabama has the sixth greatest one-year percentage increase in the number of African American students receiving an AP grade of 3-5 when compared to all other states

The number of African American students in Alabama that participate in the AP Program has increased 294 percent since 2006

• Alabamaís Hispanic student participation continues to rise as well

• The number of Hispanic students in Alabamaís public schools that participate in the AP Program has increased 135.2 percent since 2006

• The number of AP Exams administered to Alabamaís Hispanic students increased 16.9 percent from 2009 to 2010, as compared to a 15.8 percent increase nationwide

• Alabama ranks 3rd in the nation for percent increase in passing math, science, and English exams for African American and Hispanics for 2009-2010.

At Pike County Schools, Superintendent Dr. Mark Bazzell said the curriculum does not offer AP courses, chooses instead to focus on dual-enrollment opportunities with area colleges and university which offer “more bang for your buck, theoretically speaking.”

The Pike County Schools, along with Troy City Schools, participate in the Global Studies Academy, a partnership with Troy University that allows dual-enrollment for a select number of high school juniors and seniors. The students earn both high school and college credit for English, literature, history and economics courses taken at the university and, when they graduate from high school, they will have also earned 24 hours of college credit. “That’s more credit than a student can earn taking two AP courses a year for two years,” Bazzell said.

The new articulation program with Enterpise-Ozark Community College is also a two-year program and, when completed, will allow high school students to graduate also having earned an associates degree in business administration. Bazzell said 16 students are enrolled this year.

“We do offer AP courses through the ACCESS lab, if any student is interested,” he said.

At Pike Liberal Arts School, the new ACCELLERATE program is comparable to the ACCESS program and offers students the opportunity to earn college credit while enrolled in high school courses. The school does not offer AP courses.