AP classes prove a success to school
A three-year federally
funded program designed to draw high school students into advanced
placement (AP) classes has been met with such success in Blaine that
the school has become the state’s
prime example about how to run an AP program in districts with high
numbers of low-income students.
The grant funded 40 projects state-wide, and in Blaine the number of students enrolled for the year in AP classes increased 829 percent since the project was implemented three years ago.
From the second to third year (2005-2006), the number of students increased by almost 50 percent, from 95 to 144. Presently about 43 percent of Blaine seniors and juniors are taking AP classes – a far higher figure than any other district in the county.
The AP classes are recognized for credit at most colleges and universities in 20 different countries but, unlike other programs such as Running Start, classes are taught at the school by teachers who receive special training.
That keeps the students on campus, retaining state funding based on student population that otherwise would be lost. This past year that amounted to a little over $150,000 in state funding for the Blaine school district.
High school counselor Karen Mulholland and English teacher Neil Nix spoke to the Blaine school board recently to summarize the results of the three year program. The grant itself was used to support training four to six teachers each summer to teach AP classes in their fields.
Blaine now offers 12 different AP classes. One is math teacher Mike Shappell’s AP computer science class, one of only 200 in computer science offered statewide.
Unlike the technology classes that use computers to design structures, Shappell has students writing code and designing their own software.
Both Nix and Mulholland emphasized the need for continued funding and support as the grant closes down.
“We need funding for teacher training and materials,” said Mulholland, “but also to subsidize students who want to take the test at the end of a particular course but can’t afford it.”