Ogden, Weber school districts release AP test scores

Sep 15 2010 - 11:39pm

OGDEN -- Utah students are thriving on Advanced Placement tests they take to receive college credit in high school on a range of subjects.

A report released this week said 67 percent of Utah students who took the tests received college credit.

Weber School District students did slightly better than that, with 69 percent passing, but Ogden School District students had only 45 percent pass.

The statewide total is up 5 percent from last year, according to a report released Monday by the state Office of Education. The state average also is well above the national average of 58 percent.

Ogden school board members are disappointed with the district's poor showing.

"It's a little disheartening," board member Brad Smith said as he looked at the test scores.

Greg Lewis, who oversees testing in the district, showed a breakdown of test scores by subject and averaged out the scores. By doing that, there was no subject in which students scored above a 3 in a range of 1 to 5. Students must score a 3 to pass.

Board member Shane Story said part of the problem is retaining teachers of AP courses long enough to develop a good program.

Lewis agreed, saying that, in many schools with long-term AP teachers, the pass rate is 70 to 80 percent.

Board member Jennifer Zundel said the course work needs to be more rigorous throughout the year.

"You can't teach a regular English class and throw in an AP test at the end of the year to make it an AP class," Zundel said.

Ogden High School Principal Trevor Wilson said the teachers are aware of the test scores.

"They take it as personally as the students when they don't pass," he said.

He has been visiting AP classes to see that the teachers are teaching to the test so far this year.

Clay Christensen, who teaches AP biology, said several things can help students pass. He believes juniors and seniors are more suited for AP tests.

He also said students need to do research before registering for the class to make sure they can handle the workload and have a basic knowledge of the subject.

He also likes the idea of requiring students to take prerequisite classes before being able to take an AP class.

Writing is a big part of the test, and Christensen and other teachers gear their tests during the year to match what the AP test will be.

One of the challenges of AP tests is that multiple-choice questions don't necessarily have a wrong and right answer, but students must know the most-correct answer, which can be tricky if students haven't been trained to handle that.

Wilson isn't totally discouraged by the numbers.

"Of course we want them to do better, but I think that will happen when we bring the International Baccalaureate program in as well," Wilson said.

The IB program is scheduled to begin at the school next year, and teachers will receive more training, which will in turn benefit students as a whole.

The same teachers will teach IB and AP classes, and both programs give the students a chance for college credit.

Lewis said more students are participating in AP classes now than did last year.

That also is true in Weber School District, where Weber High School finished 10th in the state, with 356 participating students.

"I think it has to do with motivated kids who see the value of getting AP credit," said district spokesman Nate Taggart.

Teachers are not required to have any additional certification to teach AP classes.

"They are just dedicated to helping the kids pass," Taggart said.

Tests cost approximately $87, but students who are on free or reduced lunches can get a waiver.

The AP testing board doesn't offer the waiver because the test is optional, but the state offers it, said Ogden School District spokeswoman Donna Corby.

Many students take more than one AP test per year.

Lewis said students in the Ogden district taking the test usually take at least two AP classes and then follow up with two tests per year. Students taking AP classes do not have to take the test, but must sign up for the test by March 1.

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