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AP testing keeps academic success elevated

By Alex Lichtenberg
posted May 26, 2011

As the days of summer grow closer, many students finished up their final weeks of school by partaking in the Advanced Placement (AP) tests offered through West. Taking place between May 2 and May 13, this year’s round of AP testing left students feeling both exhausted and relieved when the grueling exams were finally completed. West students joined over 1.3 million other students from across the U.S. as they took their AP tests. The tests have become a popular tool used by colleges and universities to exempt students from introductory level classes and provide greatly discounted college credit to students. West offers a wide variety of AP courses, allowing students to take a more in-depth approach to their education.

“This year we ran five AP classes,” said Instructional Support Teacher and AP coordinator Mark Bazata, “English Literature and Composition, US History, Modern European History, US Government and Politics, and Statistics.”

Despite the smorgasbord of options provided to students in terms of AP testing, this year only 14% of West students took an AP test, according to Bazata. In spite of this seemingly low number, staff members were confident in the continuing success of the program.

“I am very excited that AP has been expanded with the addition American Government and Politics and Statistics,” said AP U.S. History teacher Andrew Britton. “I would like to see a continued expansion of the AP offerings because it allows all students more opportunities to challenge themselves.”

Students at West have high standards to live up to in terms of scoring, as the school has a proven track record of excellence.

“The scores are different for different years and different classes,” said Bazata. “On average about 80% of students at West receive a passing grade of three or better. Nationally, usually less than 60% of students pass. The strength of West’s AP program is the amazing teachers at our school. They are extremely dedicated to their students, and it shows in how well the students perform on the AP tests.”

A key factor for students in succeeding in AP tests is preparation. Whether it be through daily review sessions or personal study time, virtually all those who do well on the exams do not simply show up on test day and “wing it.”

“I went to many review sessions,” said junior Jake Cummins, “and my teacher gave out review books for the test which helped me prepare for the test a lot because it gave me sample questions and essays.”

It is this need for preparation, however, that drives many students away from testing.

“AP tests are much more involving than final exams,” said junior Lars Maxfield. “They consist of multiple sections and take a longer time work-wise. AP tests are definitely more stressful. However, there are also things to look forward to and get excited about; they can free up space in the future.”

Having a class that essentially ends in May does increase the strain on students, but having a month of relaxed class afterwards allows students to focus on their remaining classes and serves as a reward for students’ hard work. According to guidance counselor Brooke Hintze, this is one of the many advantages of taking an AP class.

“AP courses prepare students for the rigor and pace of college courses. The hope is that students leave more prepared for success in college,” she said. “AP courses do impact the college admission process as colleges want to see students engaging in coursework that is rigorous and college preparatory. Effort and time management are two external factors in college that look different from student to student.”

Though relatively few students take advantage of these highly demanding classes, every student, teacher, or administrator interviewed had a positive view on the AP program.

“Overall, our AP courses are well received from students,” said Hintze, “and I don’t see that changing any time soon. We have a great program.”

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