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The number of ETHS students taking an Advance Placement class has increased 120% in the last 10 years. At the same time, the number of students earning a qualifying grade on their AP exam has gone up 66%. This holds true for all measured student subgroups according to a report presented to the District 202 School Board at its Oct. 9 meeting. 

This increase in both access and success has earned ETHS national recognition from The American School Board Association, College Board, MSAN, ASCD Education Leadership, PBS News Hour, as well as national rankings from US News and World Report and the Washington Post, said the report.

Advanced Placement (AP) is a program created by the College Board that offers college-level curricula to high school students.  At the end of each course, students take an AP exam which is scored on a scale of 1 to 5. A score of 5, means the student is “extremely well qualified” to receive college credit for that course. A score of 4 means the student is “well qualified” and a score of 3 indicates that the student is “qualified.” A new Illinois law requires public colleges and universities in the State to award college credit to students who earn a 3 or higher on their test.

Aside from the benefit of earning college credit, research has shown that even attempting to take an AP class in high school increases college grades and the likelihood of graduation, says the report. 

Pete Bavis, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, presented the numbers.

This is the fourth consecutive year ETHS had more scores of 3 and higher than the total exams taken in 2010, he said. During the 2016-17 school year, there were 1,450 AP scores of 3 or higher and 1,384 tests administered in 2010.

More Students Taking AP Classes

Participation in AP classes is up 120% since 2006-07. Each subgroup has made gains, but gaps in access and success persist, said Dr. Bavis.

 In 2011-12, a total of 769 students took an AP course, last year the number increased to 998. The percentage of all juniors and seniors who took an AP class jumped from 38% to 64%, he said.

 For white 11th and 12th graders, the participation rate increased from 59% in 2012 to 87% in 2017, for Black/African American students, the rate increased from 23% to 36%, and for Hispanic/Latino students, from 17% to 43%. Fig. 1 illustrates the increases. 

“We are making progress over time and continue to see growth,” said Dr. Bavis.  All subgroups showed an all-time high of students earning a score of 3 or higher, he said.

“I think you understated what we have achieved in the last few years,” said Board Member Jonathan Baum.  In “fiddling” with the statistics in the report, he said, the data shows some more progress.  In 2011-12, 23% of black juniors and seniors took an AP course, of which 34% scored a 3 or higher. In 2016-17, 36% of black juniors and seniors took a course and 41% earned a score of 3 or higher. “Those are really dramatic numbers,” said Mr. Baum, and it shows there “isn’t a trade-off between access and success.”

Mr. Baum also asked why the last three years shows a “plateau” of growth in access despite an overall increasing trend. 

“We are seeing a new normal,” said Dr. Bavis. Access could be flattening, he said, but success numbers can increase.

Dale Leibforth, Math Department Chair/Team ASAP facilitator, said the administration has looked at which students had never taken an AP course and most have yet to take an honors class, he said. ETHS is looking at how to “stretch students.” AP is one answer, but dual credits and engineering programs are another way, he added. 

More AP Scores of 3 or Higher

Over the last ten years, there has been a 66% increase in scores of 3 or higher. In 2016-17, there were 1,450 AP scores of 3 or higher while in 2006-07 there were 872.

Last year, 44% of all juniors and seniors (including those who did not take an AP class) earned a 3 or higher on one or more AP class, up from 39% in 2006-07. For white students, that percentage went from 62% to 68% in the 10 year period; Hispanic/Latino students increased from 24% to 29%; and Black/African-American students increased from 8% to15%. Fig. 2 illustrates the gains.

There was also a 41% increase in scores of 4 and 5 (632 in 2006-07 and 891 in 2016-17) as well as an increase in the number of students who received College Board Honors. Students who take 3 or more AP classes and earn a score of three or higher can receive local, national and international honors. In 2011, 225 ETHS students received such honors and last year there were 350.

Nationally 20% of high school graduates earned a score of 3 or higher on at least one AP exam. At ETHS, 46% of all seniors earned a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam, according to the report.

TeamASAP = Supports

Mr. Leibforth talked about TeamASAP (Team Access and Support in Advanced Placement), a student-run program that provides tutoring and mentoring for AP students. Workshops, lunch meetings and other programming provide help “to and through AP classes.” The Team has begun “reaching down” to students in District 65 to make them aware of AP, welcome them into the program and set them up for success.

Board Member Jude Laude asked what the school is doing for those who enroll in AP, but fail and do not take an AP class again.

“Less and less drop,” said Mr. Leibforth. “We are working on building relationships with students.” He gave the example of AP Calculus. More teachers were put in the HUB to offer support. A list of “10 things you have to know” was developed to focus their studies in that class which will be modeled in other courses.

Chemistry teacher and teamASAP facilitator Tina Lulla emphasized the benefit of forming relationships to support students, saying that if students “hear from a teacher that they belong in the class, they will stay.”