By Carla Branch
On Thursday night, Alexandria City Public Schools’ Superintendent Morton Sherman and his staff presented the 2009 Advanced Placement results, which showed a decline in the number of test-takers and the number of tests taken from 2008 but an increase in the number of passing scores.
“I would call these results bimodal,” Sherman told the School Board. “Over the past five years, the number of students who take AP courses has increased but the scores have declined. Also, the number of minority students who are enrolled in AP courses has also increased during this period but our scores are not where we would like them to be. We have already implemented measures to improve our scores and to increase the number of students who take these courses but we have work to do.”
Those recommendations are: create a school level AP action plan at T. C. Williams High School; cultivate and grow a “college readiness” culture and continue algebra I completion and readiness efforts at the middle school level and below.
Board Member Helen Morris responded. “We must prepare our students for algebra I and create a ‘college readiness’ environment long before students get to T. C. if we hope to be successful,” she said. “While I understand that success in algebra I in seventh or eighth grade is a marker of success, it is important to remember that the children who are successful in algebra I now are also successful in other areas”
In 2009, 489 students took 988 AP tests, down from 528 students who took 1,045 tests in 2008. T. C. students earned a grade of three, four or five, on 54% of the AP tests, up from 52% the previous year. Virginia students earned a qualifying score of three or better on 60.6% of AP tests taken and nationally, students earned a qualifying score on 56.7% of AP tests taken. Students must earn a grade of three or better to receive college credit for tan AP course.
Fifty-five percent of the Asian students who took an AP test earned a qualifying score while 26% of black students, 44% of Hispanic students and 70% of white students received a grade of three, four or five. This compares to 64% of Asian students, 33% of black students, 54% of Hispanic students and 64% of white students, who earned qualifying scores on the AP tests statewide.
There is some correlation between classroom performance and test grades. Eighty-six percent of the T. C. students who earned an A in an AP class also got a qualifying score on the test; 61% of students with a B+ got a qualifying score; 49% of those with a B earned a three, four or five on the test; 37% of those with a C+ qualified for college credit; 22% of students who earned a C qualified for college credit; 20% of students with a D+ got a qualifying score; 7% of students with a D earned a test score of three, four or five and 19% of the students who failed the class got a qualifying score on the test.
Sherman told the Board that a staff-led committee will begin to examine the curriculum at T. C. “As I have discussed the 2005 education plan for T. C. with the staff, I have learned that a number of staff recommendations have never been implemented. We are going to begin to look at what is working and what we might like to change over the next few months.
“Some schools are moving away from the AP curriculum because there is a belief that the entire curriculum should be rigorous for all students. This is something to consider. We will bring the Board an interim report on our progress on this educational review by the end of the school year,” Sherman said.