Archive for September, 2012

COLLEGE ACHIEVEMENT FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS

I’d like to talk about some of the most valuable tests and courses administered in our school district.

At the September 11, 2012 board meeting, Lisa Nixon, who is the Pearland ISD Director of Testing and Program Evaluation, presented information on the 2012 College Board Advanced Placement (AP) test results for Pearland ISD students and some additional information on results for dual credit (college/high school) courses.

AP tests are administered to high school students who voluntarily take them in the various subjects offered. High scores on those college-level tests result in the awarding of college credit at the vast majority of universities in the U.S. And even in those universities where college credit is not awarded, the admissions criteria for entry often require that students take the associated AP course in high school so that there is evidence of a very rigorous course of study.

Over the past 3 years, Pearland ISD has greatly accelerated the number of students taking Pre-AP and AP courses. The number of enrollments in AP courses increased from 2,652 in 2010-11  to 3,810 in May 2012. Likewise, the number of Pre-AP enrollments (available in middle schools through high schools) increased from 4,104 to 5,797 in that same 3-year period. This portends well for the future.

Despite the fact that a much broader swath of the student body now takes those courses, the percentage of students scoring high enough on the AP tests to achieve college credit has remained between 55% and 60%. This achievement is above state average, which is even more remarkable considering the breadth of participation here. Such results are contributing factors to our high school’s designation as among the top 150 in the nation.

As one sterling example of these achievements, let’s look at what some might call the most challenging AP test: Calculus BC. In Pearland ISD, 44 students took that test in May 2012, with 91% receiving a test score high enough for college credit. That 91% stat is 8% higher than the global AP average for the world. These are the kind of stats that push us toward “world-class status” right here in your community.

Some of our hardest-working students take multiple AP tests. The College Board designates “AP National Scholars” as those students who take at least 8 AP tests and score a top average (4 or higher) on each. In 2012, we had 21 students achieve that honor. We also had more than 200 students score various other levels of national distinction on the exams.

In addition to our big push with regard to AP enrollment/testing, we are also increasing the enrollment/presence of “dual credit” courses within the district. Such courses, often taught by our own college-qualified faculty, result in both high school and college credit for our students. In association with Alvin Community College and San Jacinto College, we will offer 27 different dual credit courses this school  year. These courses range from academic core courses to career and technology offerings. Perhaps the shining examples of achievement in this area are the two 2012 graduates (one from PHS, one from DHS) who achieved entire associate degrees by the time they graduated from high school here. More students will doubtless achieve that stellar accomplishment in the coming years. For the 2012-13 school  year, there are at present 1,349 enrollments in dual credit courses, and those are in addition to the AP courses/tests summarized above.

I’m hoping that parents grasp the enormous advantages of AP and dual credit. Obviously presenting college course material in high school has tremendous academic advantages for students. But the benefits are also financial. As an illustration for the board, Mrs. Nixon translated the number of college credits potentially available to students because of their successful completion of AP tests and dual credit classes. She then calculated the savings in tuition if those credits were applied to enrollment at a Texas public university (Texas A&M, for example). In 2012 alone, parents/students would save a combined $1.2 million in tuition costs through the credits earned. And, of course, the savings would be even higher at more expensive higher education institutions.

I commend both of our high schools for their tremendous efforts in these college prep ventures — and predict even greater things ahead!