Enrollment up in AP classes, but testing and scoring lag

Enrollment up in AP classes, but testing and scoring lag

  • Aberdeen High School AP Calculus AB teacher Diana Liberto talks about the school's AP test score gains that brought its students national recognition earlier this year.
Aberdeen High School AP Calculus AB teacher Diana Liberto talks… (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF,…)
June 27, 2014|BY KRISHANA DAVIS, kdavis@baltsun.com

Over the last six years, enrollment in Advance Placement testing across Harford County Public Schools has increased, but that increase has not necessarily translated into more students passing the exams.

Students who pass Advanced Placement exams are afforded by many colleges and universities the option of skipping a comparable college level course, or receiving college credit for the course or both, so AP programs are often regarded as giving college-bound high school students a jump on collegiate academics.

Harford County has seen a substantial increase in enrollment in AP classes since 2008, according to data from the Maryland State Department of Education, with 2,284 students enrolling in AP classes last year, compared to 1,227 in 2008.

At the beginning of the recently-concluded school year, the school system announced an expansion of opportunities to clear the way for greater student participation in AP courses.

Every high school also has a college readiness coordinator, often referred to as a CRC, a counselor or teacher who oversees the college readiness initiative, according to Jillian Lader, Harford County Public Schools spokesperson. The CRC works with the central office and administration to expand tutoring opportunities for the AP test, advises students whether to take AP tests and assessments, analyzes school data and infuses strategies, Lader said.

"Effectiveness is measured systemically by analyzing the data with regard to the number of students successfully completing AP courses, taking the correlating AP assessment, increasing scores of 3, 4 or 5 and increasing SAT scores," Lader said in an email.

Last year, however, of 3,871 AP tests taken by Harford County students (a single student may take more than one test), just 62.6 percent resulted in passing scores. By contrast, 2,946 AP tests were taken in 2011-2012 school year with passing scores being achieved on 64 percent.

During the 2012-2013 and 2011-2012 school years, the school system had 26 AP class offerings: five science, two English, seven history and social science, four math and computer science, four world languages and cultures and four arts courses.

During 2012-13, 5,896 students enrolled in at least one of the available 26 AP classes, a 28.43 percent increase in enrollment compared to the 2011-2012 school year, when 4,691 students enrolled in at least one such class.

The AP courses with the heaviest enrollment last year were world history, U.S. history and psychology, respectively.

More than 65 percent of the students who enrolled in AP classes last year took the corresponding tests. Students can enroll in AP courses, but opt not to take the test, which costs $89 and is administered by the College Board.

Between the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years, there was a 31.4 percent increase in the number of students enrolled in AP classes who tested.

According to the College Board, a non-profit organization that administers AP and SAT tests, a school may require students to pay a higher fee than $89 to cover local proctoring and administration costs.

Former Harford superintendent Robert Tomback proposed a program for the 2011-2012 school year giving students financial waivers for the AP exam, but the Harford County School Board eventually cut the $223,242 Tomback had sought for the project.

All Harford students participating in the free and reduced meal program, however, are eligible for AP waivers through a federal grant, according to Lader.

Last year, 385 waivers were provided in Harford schools; this year the school system requested 584 waivers, Lader said.

Enrollment in math classes up, but not scores

Enrollment in AP math courses increased 22 percent from the 2011-2012 to 2012-2013 school year, but the percentage of Harford students opting to take the AP exam decreased in two out of the four math offerings.

During the 2012-2013 school year, 924 students enrolled in AP math courses, 166 more than the previous year.

Enrollment increased in calculus AB, calculus BC and statistics, but remained the same in computer science AB. There was a dramatic increase in enrollment in Calculus BC classes at 74.7 percent from 2011-2012 to 2012-2013.

While more students seem to be taking AP math courses overall, the percentage of them opting to take the AP exam decreased in both Calculus AB and BC classes.

During the 2011-2012 school year, 62.6 percent of the students enrolled in AP Calculus AB took the exam, compared to just 57.7 percent last year. Although there was also a decrease in testing for Calculus BC, it was less dramatic, from 88.9 percent in 2011-2012 to 86.7 percent in 2012-2013.

"In order to enroll in AP calculus, students must meet perquisites to this course that include algebra II, trigonometry and pre-calculus," Lader said. "Consequently, the number of students who qualify to take this assessment is smaller."

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