Suffolk AP pass rates improve

Published 11:57 pm Friday, September 9, 2011

While the number of Suffolk Public School students taking Advanced Placement tests declined this year, the percentage of students who passed the test and earned college credit for their efforts increased.

For the 2010-2011 school year, which was the first year the tests were optional for students in AP classes, 42.5 percent of almost 300 students passed the tests. That’s almost 8 points higher than the percentage of students who passed in 2010.

The tests are graded on a 5-point scale, and students who receive a 3 or higher pass.

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“We are definitely trending upward (on the exams),” said Superintendent Deran Whitney.

Deputy Superintendent Jacqueline Chavis, who presented the school division’s AP results at the School Board meeting Thursday, said the division wants to continue to see increases in both the scores and the number of students taking the exams.

“Ultimately, we want them to take that AP test and be ready for more rigorous work in college,” she said.

The exams are administered in the spring to students taking AP classes to test their knowledge. If the student receives a passing grade, they can receive credit for the course once they enter college.

Suffolk Public Schools offers AP courses in 10 subjects, including U.S. history, English literature, environmental science and Latin.

Chavis said Suffolk students increased their scores in biology, chemistry, English literature, English language and composition, U.S. government and politics, and U.S. history.

“We consistently see students do well in English literature and language, government, history and biology,” she said.

Of the three high schools, Nansemond River High School saw the highest passing percentages, which increased significantly from last year.

King’s Fork High School also saw a boost in its pass rate from 2010.

“We were happy to see that increase,” Chavis said. “We’re thinking the number of students in the IB (International Baccalaureate) program is contributing to that.”

Despite the annual increases, both schools were below the state average, which has consistently been a little more than 60 percent since 2007.

In contrast, Lakeland High School, which had the lowest AP pass rate in the division, saw a decline in its rate from last year.

Chavis said Lakeland principal Thomas Whitley has already taken steps to addressing the dip in scores, such as ensuring teachers are receiving up-to-date training for teaching AP classes.

“Dr. Whitley has shared with us that this will definitely be on his radar this year,” she said.

Chavis said one of Suffolk Public Schools’ main goals is to ensure students are well-prepared when they sit down to take the tests.

“Our goal is to make sure, prior to the students taking the course, that they are ready by providing rigorous coursework along the way,” she said.