2017-10-28 / Front Page

Educators plan for test score growth

By Anna Fletcher
Courier-Times Staff Writer

AP scores from last school year weren’t where local educators wanted them to be. So they’ve created a plan to get them closer to the state average.

The 2017 AP report for North Carolina High Schools showed Person High students passed the AP exams only about 32 percent of the time.

Teachers and administrators say they are several things they can do to raise those numbers starting this year.

Teacher trainin g

According to Shaun Douglas, assistant principal and AP coordinator, PHS teachers will receive AP training through conferences and workshops, even if they don’t teach AP classes.

“We’re making sure that every one of our AP teachers has either gone through the AP summer institute or to the AP workshops in October for their specific courses,” he said. “We’re also starting to send our teachers that historically teach younger students, so they can start implementing AP strategies and test-taking tips to prepare our students for when they reach those upper-level classes.”

New AP teachers will also be partnered with seasoned AP teachers in neighboring districts who have shown documented success. That way, Douglas says, they will have a mentor from which to learn effective teaching strategies.

Individua lized guidance

As part of the new Launch e6 Initiative, PHS plans to help each of its 1,290 enrolled students put together a personalized academic path based on their post-secondary goals.

“Our counselors worked over the summer to try to schedule a conference with every single student,” Douglas said. “We tailor their experiences and coursework with what they think they want to do after high school. [The initiative] tells students whether or not what they think they want to go into is something that they want, and they also get the opportunity to take classes that would earn them college credits toward the field they want.”

And though the counselors are still working through the student body, Director of Testing and Accountability Tara Holmes says the benefits are already apparent.

“Planning gives the students a sense of purpose,” she said. “It gives them a focus and a direction that they’re working toward. They’re not just taking random electives. There’s a purpose for each class that they’re taking, and that’s what makes a successful student.”

Prerequisites with a purpose

The school is also helping prepare students for AP courses by introducing AP-level rigor in honorslevel courses, Douglas says.

“We’re trying to implement strategies in the honors classes that are embedding content from the AP classes,” he said.

For example, he says, AP English Language is a course that PHS students have historically struggled with. To prepare them for it, a year-long curriculum has been developed for the class.

“We have the future AP English Language students take Honors English III in the first semester, which isn’t designated an AP class but incorporates AP-level rigor, and then enroll in the outright AP class in the second semester,” he said.

A promising future

While 242 AP exams were taken in the 2016-17 school year, Douglas expects the school to break 300 this year.

“If every student that’s currently enrolled in an AP class completes the class and takes the test, we’ll have 309 tests taken at the end of this year,” he said. “So we’re really pushing our kids to branch out from their comfort zone. We’re on point to have about a 28 percent increase in participation expected for this coming school year.”

To Douglas, the more students enrolled in AP courses, the more prepared the graduating students will be.

“For us, it’s about exposure,” he said. “We don’t want our students leaving PHS without the experience of taking a collegelevel exam. We have a comprehensive list of strategies that we’re trying to implement this year to increase our level of proficiency while increasing our level of participation. If we can do that, I think that’s an extremely successful year for our AP programs.”

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