More students taking Advanced Placement exams

Thursday, March 6, 2014

According to a new College Board report, more Missouri students took Advanced Placement exams in 2013 than in 2003, a Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education news release said.

For the most part, this trend has held true at the high schools in Cape Girardeau and Jackson. But in Scott City, students prefer to take dual credit courses, which allow them to earn college credits.

AP tests are given at the end of advanced placement courses, and if students score from 3 to a top mark of 5, in Missouri, students can earn at least three college credits, the release said.

Central High School in Cape Girardeau offers 16 AP courses and has 319 students enrolled in them, principal Mike Cowan said in an email to the Southeast Missourian.

Marty Vines, who has taught advanced placement courses at Central High School in Cape Girardeau for eight years, said he's seen more enrollment in the past couple of years.

"It's such an easy way to get that college credit," said Vines, whose subjects include U.S. government and politics and comparative government and politics. "If you take that test ... you pay $89 now, and it can save you $1,000 later if you pass this test at the end. ... It just makes sense to take it, so we kind of promote it, and I've seen the rise in my class."

Max Abbott, a junior at Central High in four advanced placement courses, said the classes are weighted "a whole point for your GPA, where regular honors classes are only a half a point; then just normal classes don't have any weight."

"They [AP classes] give you a more in-depth look at everything," Abbott said. Then students have a chance to take the AP test, which can earn them college credit.

"So you may be able to start college as higher than a freshman ... so you won't have to pay for those classes and you'll walk into college better educated about things that make you a functional citizen of the world," he said.

In Jackson, Matt Lacy, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the number of students taking AP classes and exams has stayed "pretty steady and consistent." The district offers 13 AP courses, and if averaged out, 130 AP tests are taken every year. However, fewer children take the test than are enrolled in the classes, he said.

But some of those classes are dual credit through Southeast Missouri State University, so students can take those and opt out of the AP exam, Lacy said.

"We always like offering rigorous and college-level classes to our children," Lacy said. "We're definitely looking at continuing to offer dual credit and AP classes just so our students are best prepared for college classes. We encourage them to take these upper-level classes for that reason. We encourage students to push themselves and like offering the classes where they can do that."


According to the 10th annual AP Report to the Nation released in February, 20.1 percent of U.S. public high school graduates in the class of 2013 earned AP exam scores of 3 or higher. In Missouri, 9.5 percent of public high school graduates in the class of 2013 earned scores of 3 or higher.

"We have no way of tracking how many students earn college credit from their AP exams," Deborah Davis, director of College Readiness Communications for the College Board in New York City, said in an email to the Southeast Missourian.

A different way

At Scott City High School, counselor LaDonna Pratt said her campus has moved toward dual credit instead of advanced placement.

The district offers dual credit courses through Southeast, Three Rivers College and Mineral Area College. Dual credit courses allow students to earn college credit while in high school. Instead of being faced with a test at the end, it tends to be a "safer route" to have a guaranteed number of credits to transfer as a result of "their hard work," Pratt said in an email to the Southeast Missourian.

The district had AP history in its course listing since 2010, but took it off this year because no students had enrolled since 2012, Pratt said.

"Consistently, we have had lower enrollments in that course simply because there is no guarantee of credit in the end. It is typically of the highest rigor. Students invest a great deal of time and effort, and the final outcome rests on the exam to determine if they earn college credit and the number of credits earned. Although it is readily transferrable to most colleges and universities and is significantly lower in costs, many students are not willing to engage in that risk.

"Students tend to take the safer route and prefer a guaranteed number of credits transferrable to a Missouri postsecondary institution as a result of their hard work. The students who have participated in the AP course in the past have gained a great deal of knowledge and have been exposed to ... high expectations, which assists in improving their dedication to success, but unfortunately, many do not earn the credit at the end of the course."

Cowan, at Central High School in Cape Girardeau, said in an email 128 students are enrolled in dual credit classes, and he agrees AP tests are only a snapshot.

The only limitation with dual credit, Pratt wrote, is cost.

"It becomes difficult for many of our students to fund the costs of these courses, even though they are significantly discounted by the colleges and university. This year, we removed the AP option because we have had no students enrolling since 2012. Therefore, our entire focus is on assisting as many students to gain dual credit as possible. Our district currently offers students the option of earning up to 25 credit hours, and there are plans to add at least six more in the fall," she wrote.


Pertinent address: 301 N. Clark St., Cape Girardeau

614 E. Adams St., Jackson

3000 Main St., Scott City

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