March 6, 2007

Nearly 2/3 AZ schools did not administer any AP exams last year

Posted in Misc at 6:46 PM by Joe From Boston

Here’s a very interesting article from the Arizona Daily Star about high school students not enrolling in AP classes, and how alarmed officials are by this!

PHOENIX – Educators say they’re alarmed by Arizona Department of Education records that show a low number of the state’s high school students are taking advanced classes and tests.

Educators consider Advanced Placement courses and exams one of the best ways to make high school more challenging and prepare students for college.

Records show that nearly two out of three Arizona public high schools never administered an Advanced Placement exam last year. And less than 16 percent of the Class of 2006 took an Advanced Placement exam in high school, compared with 24 percent nationwide.

The number of students taking the exams has doubled since 2001 but is not enough to keep pace with students nationwide.

Denise Birdwell, an administrator in the Dysart Unified School District, said she believes more students should be steered into Advanced Placement classes.

“You don’t have to test to go into those courses, unlike in the elementary grades, where in the gifted programs, there is a culling process,” Birdwell said. “What we do with gifted, we should do with every student.”

Educators and students say time, money, and school or state policies are why the percentage of Arizona’s test takers is lagging.

Advanced Placement teacher training is available once a year and costs $500. Nearly half of the high schools in Arizona are charter schools and can’t afford to create Advanced Placement courses unless all of their students participate.

Others are small and rural district schools, where it’s difficult to recruit enough teachers to provide required courses.

Additionally, students have to fork out $83 for each Advanced Placement test they take. The tests each focus on one subject, from Spanish to history, so the more a student takes, the more it costs.

State officials have visited more than 40 high schools around Arizona, and the state is offering workshops for teachers and administrators to help them create preliminary honors and Advanced Placement courses.

The College Board is beginning to require more teachers to get Advanced Placement training, and the state began reimbursing districts that pay the cost of exams for students from low-income families.

The state is setting up its first online Advanced Placement courses for students in charter or rural schools, where course work is often unavailable. The first course, U.S. history, is expected to be available as early as fall.

To catch up, the state’s Advanced Placement expert, John Stollar, said small charter and rural schools are going to have to create Advanced Placement-quality courses for all their students, even if only a small number of students are willing to take the exam.

“The only way we’re going catch up is a complete attitude shift on the part of teachers and administrators,” Stollar said, “and to open the door to honors and (Advanced Placement) courses to all kids.”