The number of AP classes at WPHS has increased almost nine times since 2014. / Amanda Yearwood
WEST POINT – In September, West Point High School (WPHS), the largest school in the county school system, was named a School of Excellence by the A+ College Ready Program, a joint venture between the private A+ Education Partnership and the Alabama Department of Education. Only four other schools in the state received that honor: Russellville High School in Franklin County, Albert P. Brewer High School in Morgan County, Carroll High School in Dale County and Prattville High School in Autauga County.
According to its website, “A+ College Ready is dedicated to developing effective teachers to educate students at higher levels, and to promoting the attainment of higher education in Alabama. It is our goal to increase the number of students in Alabama enrolled in math, science, English, and social studies Advanced Placement (AP) courses, earn qualifying scores on AP exams, and attend and succeed in college.”
Between 2008 and 2016, Alabama quadrupled the number of students taking AP exams, from 5,327 students in 2008 to 27,817 students in 2016. As a result, Alabama ranks first in the entire nation in the percentile increase in qualifying scores on AP math, science and English exams. In 2017, Alabama students took 49,860 AP exams and earned 26,279 scores qualifying for college credit. This means that the students who achieve those scores will get college course credits without having to sit through classes, meaning potential earlier graduation and savings on tuition costs.
WPHS counselors Amanda Yearwood and Shannon Waters, via the school’s AP program website, explained their school’s entrance into the program:
“As a public high school, we are faced with the challenge of providing varied instruction to accommodate for both high achieving students and those students who struggle academically. We are also challenged by a millennial generation that becomes easily bored or disengaged with instruction delivered via the old “sit and get” model. These two factors alone are enough to justify change. As educators we are lifelong learners who believe in the value of working toward a goal. Our goal is to prepare every student as college and/or career ready by the exit of high school. To adequately prepare our students we must be willing to find new ways to reach them. These beliefs led us to pursue the opportunity to offer AP and Pre-AP courses in our school and serve as the spark to ignite the change needed to meet our goal.
“In the 2013-2014 school year our faculty began discussions on what opportunities our students had verses schools in our region. At that time, our students had little to no access to college level course work and the opportunity to earn college credit. In 2014-2015 we started building our AP program by launching a few Advanced Placement courses. Our students became excited and our faculty found new enthusiasm. In 2015-2016 we applied for and were invited into the A+ College Ready program. This program enabled us to expand our course offerings to include Pre-AP and AP coursework, provide quality training for teachers, and funding for classroom supplies. As of 2016-2017 our course offerings and student enrollment numbers in challenging courses has increased exponentially!”
In 2014 WPHS offered three AP classes. In 2017, the school boasts 26 AP and pre-AP offerings. In the spring, students took their exams and produced 56 qualifying scores. At a special celebration, the school presented a $100 gift card for each qualifying score, placing $5,600 directly into the hands of students.
Since WPHS joined the program in 2014, the A+ College Ready program has brought the school $325,000 in value grants, instructional and curriculum support and funding, and a potential of up to $100,000 in tuition savings, if all of the AP students pursue college educations.
Said Yearwood, “We are extremely proud of our students and teachers for all the work they have dedicated to Advanced Placement courses. Each of them spend an enormous amount of time in the classroom and beyond. Part of the A+ College Ready grant provides special Saturday Study Sessions to help students better prepare for exams. Many of our students have spent their Saturdays at these sessions. This type of dedication, in my opinion, is the key ingredient to their success.
“I am very excited about what the future holds for our students. In a recent vertical team meeting with 6-12 teachers in our feeder pattern (West Point Middle, Harmony, West Point High) we discussed the impact that the curriculum and teacher training was having on all students. Many of the lessons used in Pre-AP and AP courses are being used in standard level courses as well. We are anxious to see student progress over the coming years.”
For more information on the A+ College Ready program, visit http://aplusala.org/college-ready.
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