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Tri-state schools offer financial help

October 14, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Greencastle-Antrim (Pa.) High School officials thought it important enough to get more students to take Advanced Placement courses and exams that about four years ago they started reimbursing students for the exam cost, based on how well they do, Principal Jack Appleby said.

Challenging students and giving them the self-satisfaction of seeing how well they can do is the point of the AP exam, said Appleby, who also is director of secondary education. Exam scores also give teachers feedback on how well they are doing, he said.

Not all school systems offer a financial incentive for taking Advanced Placement exams, but many Tri-State area school systems are encouraging more students to take the tougher AP courses and exams.

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The Washington County Board of Education is training more teachers for AP courses and pays half of the students' cost for an exam, said Boyd Michael, executive director of secondary education. An AP exam will cost $82 this school year. Students in the free or reduced-cost lunch program paid about $15 for an exam last year, he said.

Reimbursing Greencastle-Antrim students has encouraged more students to take the exam, Appleby said.

"Not all the students who take AP choose to take the exam so we have done some, I guess, baiting the kids to take the exam and we give a part of their exam money back to them, depending upon their performance," Appleby said.

Greencastle-Antrim students who score a perfect 5 on an Advanced Placement exam are reimbursed 100 percent of the exam cost, Appleby said. They get 75 percent back for a score of 4 and 50 percent for a score of 3, he said.

"I like the idea of rewarding the kids for their performance," Appleby said.

Earning a 3 or better on the exam also can score a student college credit, based on the individual college's policy, educators said.

The exam cost often is cheaper than the tuition, educators said.

Taking the exam also helps students get admitted to college and gives them an idea of how rigorous college exams will be, said Jefferson High School Principal Susan Wall.

Jefferson County, W.Va., offers Advanced Placement courses in English literature, U.S. history, European history, psychology, calculus, physics, chemistry, biology and studio art, but AP exams are offered in more subjects because students can work on them independently with a teacher to prepare for the exam, Wall said.

Berkeley Springs (W.Va.) High School has been expanding the AP courses offered to its students because demand has increased, Principal George Ward said.

"I think the students want access to more challenging curriculum and most of them are focused on the future. They want to succeed," Ward said.

The school may phase out honors classes for upperclassmen because so many more students are taking AP courses, which require them to take AP exams, Ward said.

Several graduates told Ward they didn't earn a high enough score on the exam to earn college credit, but taking the course in high school helped them do well in college, he said.

Chambersburg (Pa.) Area School District students also are encouraged to take Advanced Placement courses and exams because they open more doors when it comes to college, said Eric Michael, assistant superintendent for curriculum instruction.

Martinsburg (W.Va.) High School Principal Ken Pack said educators encourage students to take AP courses and exams, but they aren't for everyone.

Students must meet certain academic standards and be recommended by a teacher in a subject area to take an AP course, he said.

"We want students to be challenged, but we don't want to put students (in) over their head," Pack said.

Students who earn college credit by taking the AP exam may still be required to take a full course load in college, but perhaps they can start off taking a higher-level course their freshman year, Appleby said.

Then again, some students prefer to take the Level 1 course their freshman year so their first semester isn't as much of a shock, Appleby said.

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