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More students fared well on AP exams

August 13, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY

More Washington County Public Schools students took advanced placement exams and scored well on them in 2006-07 than in any previous year, according to Robert Brown, coordinator for testing and accountability.During the most recent school year, 789 students took 1,350 exams in 24 subjects, Brown said. Of those exams, 679 (50.3 percent) received a score of 3 or better. A 3 is considered a passing score.

Advanced placement courses are typically college-level courses. Students may choose to take an AP exam, which can be used for college credit, that includes a free-response section and multiple-choice questions. The tests are scored on a scale of 1 to 5.

Students took exams in subjects like English, statistics, biology and world history.

This also was the first year that students at North Hagerstown High School took international baccalaureate exams. Brown said he did not have details on those tests, but principal Valerie Novak said during a recent Board of Education meeting that she was pleased with the results. This was North Hagerstown's first year of taking those tests.

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During the 2005-06 school year, 750 students took 1,365 exams, 15 more than during the most recent school year, Brown said. Of those exams, 630 (46.2 percent) received a score of a 3 or higher.

"Our focus with AP is to give kids the opportunity," Brown said. "Kids just taking the exam and the course does a lot to prepare that student for college."

More students took the English language and comprehension exam than any other during the 2006-07 school year, Brown said. Two hundred eighty-three students took that exam, with 134 (47.3 percent) receiving a 3 or higher.

During a Board of Education meeting last week, Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan described this year's AP exam scores as "exciting news."

Board Member Donna Brightman questioned a decision to take away some honors courses, leaving only a grade-level course and an advanced placement courses.

Assistant superintendent for secondary instruction Donna Hanlin said that students are taking either AP English or grade-level English, which is increasing the number of students taking advanced placement classes.

"It's limiting choices rather than giving them choices," Brightman said.

Board of Education student representative Aaron Zaccaria is a senior at Smithsburg High School and said there are some students who don't feel they're ready for advanced placement courses, but don't feel challenged enough in a grade-level class.

Those kids in the middle could benefit from offering an honors course, he said.

"I would prefer a student get a 1 on the AP exam and get the exposure to the college rigor," Novak said. "We're trying to get kids ready for college."

Board Vice President Wayne D. Ridenour said he supports encouraging students to be exposed to extra knowledge and college-level material, but says the AP exam should not be the focus.

"I don't mind that we recommend or encourage kids to take AP," he said. "I will have a problem telling kids they must take the test."

Brightman said there is a lot of pressure placed on students to take the exams.

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