Participation in Advanced Placement exams at Caddo Parish high schools nearly tripled last school year according to data released by the Louisiana Department of Education.
During the 2013-2014 school year, 1,008 students took AP exams compared to 356 the previous year. In the past three years, Caddo schools student participation has grown from 211 students during the 2011-2012 school year.
“Academic Affairs is committed to do whatever it takes to provide the very best instruction and support for our teachers and students in Caddo Parish,” said Chief Academic Officer Keith Burton. “We are excited especially about the continued growth of the Advanced Placement offerings at our high schools. Students not only are being challenged at higher levels in more classes, but also are earning college credits that will accelerate their earning a college degree. Caddo will continue to make this a priority in our planning and with resources in the future.”
One continued standout is Caddo Magnet High School. The school once again ranked among the top schools in the state for students scoring 3 or above. Last year, 123 Magnet High students a 3 or above – up from 115 in the 2012-2013 school year. AP exams are graded on a scale of 1 to 5, and a 3 qualifies a student for college credit.
“The Caddo Parish School Board continues to be proud of the instructional success at Caddo Parish Magnet High School,” Burton said. “The combination of a quality faculty with a motivated group of students who work to achieve each year at high levels, is such a winning combination. We also are very excited about the continued success at Magnet with Mr. Ilgenfritz beginning this year as principal. Very good days are ahead for this school of excellence.”
Promoting AP course involvement is an aspect not only of the state’s master plan, Louisiana Believes, but also a goal of Caddo Schools to ensure students are receiving rigorous coursework needed to be college and career ready. AP offers students the opportunity to earn nationally-recognized college credit during high school.
In addition, research shows students who complete AP coursework are better prepared for college-level work, are more likely to continue their education beyond their freshman year in college and are more likely to graduate in four years. Students participating in AP classes also stand out in the college admissions process and are more competitive in qualifying for scholarships.
Through Louisiana Believes, Caddo teachers and administrators were able to take advantage of state-funded training opportunities to increase the number of AP courses available at district schools. For the past three years, Caddo also invested in intensive and immersive training for teachers and principals.
Students are the real winners. This year Caddo Schools committed to increase funding for test takers to allow students of all economic levels to be on equal footing in participating in AP testing.
C.E. Byrd High School was ranked in the top schools in the state in AP test score growth. The school also continues to lead the district in the number of students participating in AP classes, and Principal Jerry Badgley said one motivator for students is the lowered testing costs. With increased student interest, Badgley offers the largest number of AP courses in the parish at 16 classes. That number includes the addition of two new courses this year – AP psychology and AP Spanish IV.
“We’ve always had a strong AP program, but the state and Caddo Parish are really proving they are putting their money where their mouth is and allowing us to get students in with the incentive of saying not only does this look great to colleges, but we will help pay for the cost of the test,” Badgley said. “We recognize the value even taking the coursework does for a student in the eyes of a college recruiter, and we want to do everything on our end to make a student that wants to go to college look as strong as possible.”
Badgley said over the past two years his teachers have gone through multiple AP trainings to allow them to really understand the coursework. One such teacher is Katie Harrison, the school’s history department chair and AP world history teacher.
“Caddo Parish and Byrd have really done everything imaginable to prepare me to teach these courses,” Harrison said. “They are very good at finding the funding and doing what needs to be done to get us the resources we need, and ultimately it’s paying off for students.”
Harrison said in the past two years she’s seen a sharp increase in the number of students willing to take AP courses.
“In one class along this year I went from 20 kids the year prior to 60 and this year I have 120 kids registered already for just one AP class,” Harrison said. “It’s exciting to see how fast it’s growing and now you students talking to other students telling them how awesome these classes are and encouraging them to get involved. Our kids are great at stepping up to the challenge and see the value of learning at higher levels.”
John Lary, an AP European history and AP U.S. history teacher at Byrd, reiterated Harrison’s comments.
“The training we get through the school is the best kind of professional development there is,” he said. “We get to know not only what to look for on the AP exam, but also know best to teach the material, any changes that are coming and really engage with other teachers who are just as passionate as we are about offering this difficult, but rewarding courses.”