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!


  1. 1 Dr. John P. Kelly April 24, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    I’m sorry but I generally have only used this blog for public posting. Although I’ve written many newspaper columns in the past, I haven’t written much (besides this blog) in the last 2 years. I do appreciate your desire to keep up with what I post. I confess my blog postings are somewhat sporadic given the limited time I’ve had for this…

  2. 2 Vacation April 17, 2013 at 4:14 am

    First off I want to say superb blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
    I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear
    your mind prior to writing. I have had a difficult
    time clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out.
    I truly do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes
    are generally wasted just trying to figure out how to begin.
    Any suggestions or hints? Thank you!

    • 3 Dr. John P. Kelly April 17, 2013 at 4:28 pm

      I appreciate your kind comments about the blog writing. In answer to your question: Generally speaking, I form an idea in my head about what I want to write about – often when I’m driving my car or in those rare moments when I get to reflect on something rather than just respond. And probably the very best thing I do is to come back to something I’ve written a day or two later. If it is something that I get a positive response to, it’s generally one I’ve re-visited several times before posting. It’s amazing what you come up with if you’re given time to re-think it over a day or two. Unfortunately, much of what I write in my job is off the top of my head and in a hurry – and is less than stellar. In terms of beginning to write something, my advice is to simply start writing anything that comes to mind that you want to say. Then when you re-read it, you’ll begin re-arranging the pieces and taking out the things that don’t need to be said. Don’t get stuck on how to start. Get the main message out, then come back with the introduction when you’re more happy with the overall information you’re trying to present. But here’s the bottom line (and I’m just writing this without any reflection): It is consistently proven to me that those times when I come back a day later or do multiple edits before posting – are when people inevitably tell me later they appreciate what I’ve written. I also find that the shorter I make something (after edits), the better. I tend to get too wordy. This posting may be a good example!

      Unfortunately, I only follow my own advice about 1/5th of the time!

  3. 4 Margo Gigee September 23, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    I loved reading this blog! So many teachers and administrators have put forth extraordinary effort to help our students achieve college level success. I believe we are moving in a positive direction for Pearland students so that they will have more choices and are better prepared for their future. I am especially appreciative of your support and the commitment of our school board. Thank you for your leadership.

  4. 5 Mark Dunk (@unklar) September 13, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    It’s great to hear such wonderful news from our Superintendent about our district! Not that Mrs. Nixon needs anything else on her plate, but it would be nice to see surveys of these students after they go off to college and enter the work force to see how the AP/Dual Credit experience helps them.

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