Blount County and Maryville schools are among only 10 districts statewide named to the College Board’s Sixth Annual AP District Honor Roll for 2015.
This was the third consecutive year Blount County earned recognition, and Maryville also made the honor roll in 2013. The honor roll recognizes districts that increase access to Advanced Placement courses while also increasing the percentage of students earning a score of 3 or higher on AP exams.
Colleges generally require scores of 3, 4 or 5 on AP exams for college credit, placement or both. Nationwide, 421 school districts earned recognition on the most recent honor roll, based on data from 2013-15. Maryville, Heritage and William Blount high schools all track their AP data a bit differently, but all show significant gains in the past five years.
Blount students have dozen choices
William Blount High School has gone from offering a single AP class in 2011 to up to a dozen now, although not every class is held every year. Heritage High School has 10 AP classes. “We’re really trying to push rigorous AP courses,” HHS Assistant Principal Robert Reeves said. HHS is working to increase awareness among students and parents about AP courses, and Reeves said, “Teachers are our best recruiters.” Blount County students can begin AP coursework their freshman year with AP Human Geography.
“There are some kids that come out of this school who are going to have nine or 10 AP course credits,” Reeves said. “It’s almost an entire year of school.” “This is life-changing for some of these students,” the assistant principal said. “I’m impressed with how our teachers have gotten so much out of these students,” Reeves said. Along with bright students, when a high number score well enough on the AP exam, “you’ve got a rock star as a teacher,” he said.
In 2015, for example, all 19 HHS students who took the AP Biology exam scored a 3 or higher. Of 90 HHS students who took an AP exam 2015, 71 had a score of 3 or more. Heritage’s AP program grew from students taking 54 exams in 2011 to 85 in 2015 and 135 last year. “I’d like to see us go over 500 AP exams here,” Reeves said. Even if they don’t take the exams, though, Reeves noted that simply completing the more challenging AP coursework can drive student achievement in other areas, such as ACT scores.
William Blount increased the number of students taking AP coursework from 27 in 2011 to 173 in 2013 and 204 in 2015. The number of AP exams increased to 11, 123 and 134, respectively. Last year, William Blount students scored 3 or higher on 91 AP exams.
Maryville increasing too
In 2011, Maryville High School offered a dozen AP courses and now it has teachers trained to offer 23, although not all courses are held every year. Last year and this year it held 18 AP courses. In 2011, students filled 638 seats in AP classes, with many taking more than one. This year MHS has 979 AP seats filled. “Maryville City Schools’ strategic plan set a goal to increase students earning college credit through AP course work,” Principal Greg Roach said, so it has been recommending students for AP work and encouraging them to test for college credit. “We want to be sure that we’re challenging each student,” he said. The number of exams taken by MHS students rose from 280 in 2011 to 356 in 2013 and 521 last year.In the past three years, an average of 80 percent of the AP test takers at MHS have scored well enough to earn college credit.
Support for exam fees
The Blount County Education Foundation provides scholarships to help cover the AP exam fees. For non-fee-waiver students, those who don’t qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches, BCEF offers to pay half of the $92 exam fee. It will pay the entire fee for fee-waivered students. “We are very grateful to the Blount County Education Foundation for their support of our students,” William Blount Principal Rob Clark said. Maryville High School keeps a list of sponsors to assist students who need help paying for their exam fees.
By Amy Beth Miller-The Daily Times