Advanced Placement courses are intended as a more rigorous aspect of high school class work. Students also have an opportunity to take a test at the end of the year, which could earn them college credits.
While upward of 40 students are enrolled in AP courses, far fewer are actually taking the end-of-course exam. This dichotomy was discussed Tuesday at the Mexico Public School District No. 69 Board of Education meeting.
There currently are students enrolled in AP government, world history, calculus and psychology. The district also offers AP courses in American history, computer science and computer science principles, but no students signed up for those classes. The high school has changed offering chemistry as an AP course to a dual-credit course.
“Most students that take them are college-bound kids. Some are taking them just to get a taste of that more rigorous curriculum,” Mexico High School Principal Brad Ellebracht said.
The test itself serves a number of purposes. A previous student had to get a score of five on the calculus exam to get into a specific program at the university she planned to attend, Ellebracht said, anecdotally.
The school also started tracking the data of students who take AP courses and then go on to take the final test, monitoring the average scores. For example, in the 2017-18 school year, 40 students were registered to take AP government, and eight students took the test, with an average score of 1.4 out of 5.
“We kind of saw some numbers there we need to address a little bit as a building,” Ellebracht said. “This fall, we have pulled together those AP teachers, and we’ve talked about what the philosophy is … and how we want to measure our impact within the coursework.”
More students have enrolled this year than in previous years, with all but one course seeing an increase compared to last year. The school doesn’t mandate that students in AP courses take the exam at the end of year, Ellebracht said, which may contribute to the disparity in the number of students taking the class and those taking the test.
“Two years ago, we tested 26 percent of our kids that took the test. Last year, we tested 23 percent of our kids,” he said.
There are more questions than answers at this point, Ellebracht said, but the school has only started to look at the data in the past few years.
“We have some philosophical questions to answer,” he said. “The kids that are engaged, we feel, get a lot out of it. The interest in (AP classes) continues to grow.”
One cause for the testing disparity may come down to cost. Each AP test is $94, and if a student is taking multiple courses, that adds up quickly. Students also have to earn a certain score on the test to even start to earn college credit — the higher the score, the more credit hours.
“Do we ask the students why they don’t take (the test),” Vice President Heather DeMint asked.
The students have not been surveyed in the past, Ellebracht said. It may also be a matter of confidence, he said.
“I don’t know that we have ever put an emphasis on the need to take the test, so that’s kind of the question we are asking now is, should we,” he said.
In other business:The district is working toward installing doors at Mexico Middle School. They plan is to install one door, so the district can then extrapolate the cost for the entire building, since there are number of factors to installing a standard 36-inch door, such as concrete or headers and drywall installation. The project would be put out to a bid if necessary and would use bond proceeds. The district hopes they can do the installs over the Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.