More D-B students taking on challenge of AP classes

Rick Wagner • Feb 6, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Advanced Placement classes are drawing more and more students from the city’s Dobyns-Bennett High School, which mirrors an increase reported across Tennessee.

However, Sullivan County and Hawkins County schools report schools’ AP participation declining, likely in favor of dual-enrollment classes.

“Taking AP classes exposes students to greater challenges and is a good indicator of how ready they are to tackle the higher-level skills needed for college coursework and the workplace,” Tennessee Education Commissioner Timothy Webb said in a news release. “These numbers are encouraging. We want more students to take this opportunity to be better prepared for life after high school.”

Overall student participation in AP courses, as reported by The College Board Wednesday, increased statewide by nearly 7 percent since 2006-07, and the number of students earning a score of 3 or higher on their exams increased nearly 9 percent.

The study also shows an almost 9 percent increase in the number of African-American students taking a least one Advanced Placement exam and a 35 percent increase for Hispanic students in the same category.

In the class of 2008, 8,513 students from public high schools took at least one AP exam, up from 7,976 in 2006-07. In 2007-08, 4,772 students earned a 3 or higher on their exams, up from 4,347 in 2006-07.

In Kingsport, Dory Creech, director of comprehensive school improvement and accountability, said AP participation is increasing at Dobyns-Bennett. In 2006-07, she said 210 students took AP courses, which grew to 212 in 2007-08 and 276 this school year.

She said the number of AP exams D-B students took grew from 426 in 2006-07 to 526 in 2007-08, while the scores those students made fell from 3.57 in 2006-07 to 3.51 in 2007-08.

Creech said the classes prepare students for college by giving them a work ethic and helping them learn how to study, as well as what’s required and expected at the college level.

Kingsport Board of Education President Susan Lodal said the cost of $86 per exam is steep for some families, and she wishes Tennessee would pay for more or all of the test charges for all students, not just low-income ones.

Gene Johnson, assistant director of schools in Sullivan County, said AP participation there has fallen from 540 in 2006-07 to 476 in 2007-08 and 461 in 2008-09. Johnson said he doesn’t have the data to prove it, but he believes dual-enrollment courses have grown during the same period.

“There’s a lot of pride in taking the AP classes,” Johnson said, adding that the system would try to help find financial assistance for a student who wants to take an AP test but can’t afford it.

Neighboring Hawkins County schools also have AP courses, although Gloria Silvers, high school supervisor there, said that rather than AP courses students in that system are taking more dual-enrollment courses that give high school and college credit without the separate test or its cost, including programs with East Tennessee State University, Walters State Community College and the Career Fast Track program with Northeast State Technical Community College.

In an effort to increase rigor across all student groups, the state beginning this fall is implementing the Tennessee Diploma Project (TDP), which increases graduation requirements and raises academic standards.

The new math, science and English standards reflect national expectations by organizations such as National Assessment of Education Progress and The College Board.

With the implementation of the TDP, students will be required to complete a college and work-ready curriculum that better equips students for post-secondary opportunities in the 21st century, Webb said.

AP courses “will continue to play a role in getting students on the right track to graduation under the new standards and curriculum next school year,” Webb said.

To view the full report, go to www.collegeboard.com/html/aprtn/index.html.

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