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More WCPS students taking college-prep courses and exams

August 17, 2010|By JULIE E. GREENE
  • The trends of more Washington County Public Schools students taking college-prep courses and exams and of more students achieving passing scores continued last school year, according to data from the Board of Education
Chad Trovinger, Graphic Artist

The trends of more Washington County Public Schools students taking college-prep courses and exams and of more students achieving passing scores continued last school year, according to data from the Board of Education.

"We believe we do have cause to celebrate as we continue to excel in this area toward our goal," said Donna Hanlin, assistant superintendent for curriculum, school administration and improvement.

School system officials have worked hard the past six or seven years to expose more students to advanced placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) coursework, Hanlin said.

Exposing students to such classes is part of a broader goal to create a culture in which students go to college, she said.

During the 2009-10 school year, 2,289 students were enrolled in AP or IB classes, compared with 2,203 during the 2008-09 school year, according to school system data.

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Last school year, 983 students took AP or IB exams, compared with 942 the previous school year.

The number of exams taken increased from 1,678 to 1,930. The number of tests on which a student achieved a passing score -- 3 or higher on AP tests and 4 or higher on IB tests, went up from 835 to 954.

Some students can earn college credit, based on their exam scores and the individual college or university's score requirements, Hanlin said.

Advanced Placement courses are available in at least 25 subjects, though how many subjects are available at each county high school varies, education officials said. Students are graded on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest.

North Hagerstown High School is the only high school in the school system that provides International Baccalaureate courses.

The International Baccalaureate is a two-year program that prepares students for college-level work. The curriculum includes English, a second language, math, science, a social science and, typically, fine arts, said Clyde Harrell, director for curriculum and instruction. Students in the International Baccalaureate program are graded on a scale of 1 to 7.

The information presented at Tuesday's meeting was from a preliminary report, said Jeremy Jakoby, supervisor of testing and accountability. The final report will be available in the fall.

Last year's presentation about college-prep exams reported 1,685 AP and IB tests were taken by 941 different test takers. The up-to-date numbers for 2009 state 1,678 exams were taken by 942 different test takers.

Most of the test takers are juniors and seniors, however some freshmen and sophomores take the exams, Jakoby said. A student doesn't have to take the AP class to take the AP exam, though it is recommended, he said.

School-by-school data on AP courses and exams was not provided at Tuesday's meeting.

State and national data about 2010 AP exams will be available in mid-September, said Maureen Moran, spokeswoman for the Maryland State Department of Education.

Board member Donna Brightman raised a discussion about test scores and the mean AP score in the county versus the state.

The county's mean score was below 3 on AP exams in all subjects in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 school years, according to state data. The mean scores for last school year were not provided at the meeting or available through the state yet.

Board President Wayne D. Ridenour said when the push to have more students take AP courses began several years ago, it was about giving more students opportunities to take rigorous classes.

"Do we want 3, 4 and 5s, or as many students as possible to take difficult classes?" said Ridenour, referring to passing AP scores.

If educators want more students to take college-prep classes, odds are the average score is going to decrease, he said.

"We're trying to build an AP culture. I think we do that by having more students in classes," Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said.

"I may not be around here, but I predict in the not-too-distant future (we'll) see real increases in scores," Morgan said.

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