Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 22, 2012

Ashland schools show improvement in AP courses

Mike James
The Independent

ASHLAND — Ashland is one of nine Kentucky school districts saluted this year for improving access and performance on advanced placement courses.

The College Board, the non-profit organization that created and developed the advanced placement concept, commended the nine districts, along with 530 others nationwide, on its third annual Advanced Placement District Honor Roll.

Schools so honored were shown to have increased access to AP coursework and at the same time increased the percentage of students earning a 3 or better score on AP exams. Doing so indicates district success in identifying students who will benefit the most from AP courses.

Advanced placement courses are college-level classes that culminate in rigorous exams. Students who take the courses can get college credit and a better chance for scholarships. The tests are scored on a scale of one to five.

The distinction is important because it meshes with new accountability rules that make college and career readiness top priorities, according to Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Lisa Gross.

“The AP results are not included in the accountability model but having more students take advanced placement and scoring higher leads them to be college and career ready,” Gross said.

At Paul Blazer High, the number of students taking, and passing, AP courses and the number of courses offered have been increasing for several years, said principal Derek Runyon.

In addition, more Blazer teachers have been taking the 40-hour summer training required to teach the rigorous courses, he said.

Increasing student participation has been a matter of identifying the students who are likely to do well and encouraging them to sign up for AP courses, he said. Counselors identify students through test scores and other data, and classroom teachers recommend students they believe are AP material.

Also, AP courses are open enrollment at Blazer. “Even if they are on the bubble with their test scores, if they are willing to take the chance we are willing to give them the opportunity ... We want to push students in that direction because we know that even if they don’t take the AP test or don’t pass, it would prepare them for the rigor of college, and that’s our goal,” Runyon said.

Many colleges offer credit for AP courses, which means students and their families can save thousands of dollars in college expenses, Gross said.

Schools on the honor roll list were demographically and geographically diverse, she said. There were rural and urban districts, large schools and small schools. “Nationwide, schools are focused on increasing access to advanced placement. In Kentucky we’ve been doing it for years.”

AP results may one day be part of Kentucky’s accountability model, although that will require negotiating the terms for using the information, which is proprietary and owned by the College Board, Gross said.

Legal teams from the state education department and the College Board have had some discussions about it, she said.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or

(606) 326-2652.