Push for AP is factor in increased test numbers contributing extra funding
Advanced Placement testing is an opportunity for students to test their knowledge at the end of the year and receive college credit. While these AP tests are beneficial for a student’s academic success, they also become factors in bettering the environment of the campus as this opportunity for college readiness acts as an incentive for schools.
Awards have been given to the high school, such as the A+ award and the US News and World Report, that take into account the number of AP tests taken as a factor for the awards.
Assistant superintendent Dr. Craig Gilbert said: “What [the District’s Governing Board is] looking at is how many tests.”
“There is a couple different awards that are out there. One is how many tests a school gives based on the number of students they have. Part of the problem is not always how well you do on the test it’s just how many test you actually take.”
According to the US News and World Report, PHS ranks No. 2940 in the nation and No. 47 in the state; the rankings are partially determined by the tests as well.
“They are just looking at the number of assessments you are giving, not only how they score but are you encouraging students to take the Advanced Placement Test,” explained superintendent Camille Casteel. “In Chandler, we are encouraging to administer the test and not worry about the score. Administer the test because we want all kids to have that opportunity to see what their potential is and how well they will do.”
Another incentive for the school to encourage AP tests is the fact that taking the test leads to the school making a profit.
“We get a $9 rebate that comes back to the school,” assistant principal Heather Patterson said. “Eighty-four dollars goes back to [the testing company] College Board and we make the rest of it.”
With 1,670 tests being taken this year, the school will receive $15,030.
In addition, the school also adds an extra $2 to the price of the test, costing students a total of $95 per test, to cover administrative costs. On top of the $9 rebate, College Board also gives a major rebate back to the school based on the number of tests that are taken; currently Perry is in line to receive $1,500.
“[For] 750-999 exams, [schools] get $1000. 1000-1999 exams, you get $1500, and then 2000 or more exams, you will receive $3000,” a College Board representative said.
In total, PHS will make around $19,870 this year from AP tests. According to Patterson, around $1,000 will pay for renting test-day tables, money is also provided for students who cannot afford to pay for their AP tests and the remainder rolls over to the next year.
With AP tests being a factor with the awards and success being brought to school, the “push” for the test begins with teachers promoting them in class.
“More tests are better. The higher numbers that we have, the more people we can show are involved in the program,” history department chair Jason Myers said. “Positive feedback is given if there are more tests this year than there were last year.
While Advance Placement classes are usually only available to upperclassmen, the change from the freshman Honors World History class to an AP class this year has created a introduction for this testing at the freshman level. World History, next to English Language and Composition, being the classes with the most taken AP tests this year as both reached numbers above 200 tests.
“We’re hoping that involvement in AP at the freshmen level leads to involvement in AP programs later, across the board,” Myers said. “Getting those kids involved in what it’s like to take an AP class early, they’re more likely to stick with it later.”
With the mindset of more tests, some teachers started giving incentives to their students to take the AP test. One of the most common incentives being that a student would receive an automatic A on their final exam if they took the AP test. One of the teachers who offered this incentive was AP Macroeconomics teacher Trent Thornton.
But then, “[the incentive] got back to [Chandler Unified School] District and they’re like ‘Well basically kids are buying their grade’ and so I had to stop that,” he said.
Thornton said during the time in which he was giving the incentive, his AP test takers ranged from around 150 to 200 students. After he stopped the incentive however, his test takers dropped to around 35 students. Noticing this change, administration questioned what had happened.
“You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have a high number of kids taking the test and still expect scores to be high,” Thornton said. “If there’s no incentive to give to kids it’s going to be hard, much harder for me to get everybody to buy in to take the test.”
Another big contributor to an increase of AP testing is the STEM program. One of the requirements in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program is that students are required to take the AP test for every AP class they are enrolled in, or they are dropped from the program.
“I don’t think our AP numbers would be as high if we didn’t have STEM,” Patterson said.
When PHS rolled out its STEM program five years ago, assistant principal Joe Greene created the guidelines and requirements for the program, including the AP stipulation.
“The purpose of [enforcing AP tests] is if [STEM is] a college-readiness course, then those are college level tests,” Greene said. “So if you’re going to get [students] ready for college, the more exposure they have to the test the better.”
Students who choose to pursue the STEM Scholar Diploma – the most rigorous path to graduation students can take – includes nine AP classes on their schedule, and the STEM Diploma route has four AP classes, not including other possible AP classes and electives that can be taken.
“I think that if students are taking an AP class they should be encouraged to take the AP test,” Myers said. “It’s a measurement, it’s a good experience; high stakes testing is part of the game in college.”
However, some teachers see a flaw in the policy. AP math teacher Linda Moon says she has many unprepared students take the AP exams each year.
“I have some students, for instance who have never even had a passing grade on a normal test,…who sign up and take it just because it is a requirement,” explains Moon. “I have seen the number of AP tests going up, but I feel that the success and passing rate has gone down [when] the passing of that requirement came to be.”
STEM senior Travis Latimer is taking Dual Enrollment and has to take the AP test “because I’m forced to by STEM.”
“I think if there is an AP test and [students] can get credit for it, they should be able to take credit for it,” Latimer said, “but there shouldn’t be something forcing them to take it. So it should be a choice.”
Whether schools want their students to participate in AP exams for their own education or for the image of the campus is a gray area, but with the opportunity for college credit and recognition of the school, the push for AP-test participation will continue as the school grows.