SYRACUSE — To borrow terminology from the sport of track and field, the bar is being raised for AP, or advanced placement, courses at Wawasee High School. Wawasee received word Dec. 12 it is one of 10 schools in the state being accepted into the AP-Tip IN program based out of Notre Dame.
A more formal acceptance will be finalized in January.
AP-Tip IN is a program heavily promoting more high school students taking, and also passing the test for, AP courses in STEM-related fields, which includes science, technology, English and math.
Specific subject related guidance, or coaching, is provided for teachers and “teachers will have access to really good professional development,” said John Snyder, assistant principal at WHS. Part of that professional development, in addition to a weeklong conference in July, includes teachers taking a mock exam they grade themselves.
AP-Tip IN provides a grant to pay for all the expenses involved including the teacher professional development, student testing for AP classes as long they are in a STEM-related subject and also other financial incentives. Teachers will get a $500 stipend to support the additional responsibilities in extra training and teaching AP courses and can also get a $500 stipend based on enrollment in AP courses.
And students can receive $100 per qualifying score on AP exams in eligible courses.
Snyder said a twofold goal is to not only increase the number of students taking AP courses, but also the percentage of those who pass the courses. He noted there are a significant number of students who say they are interested in college, but who never take an AP course.
Last year, 19.7% of seniors attempted an AP course and 12.4% passed at least one AP test. Wawasee presently offers AP courses in chemistry and biology (science) and two calculus courses and statistics (math), but does not offer any AP technology or English courses. AP courses are also offered in the non-STEM-related subjects of U.S. History and art.
However, Snyder emphasized, the plan is to eventually offer more AP courses.
Content of what is taught currently in AP courses will not necessarily be affected. Instead, “there will be more of a laser-like focus on what we are teaching and assessing to prepare kids for AP testing,” said Geoff Walmer, WHS principal. Course content will be “better aligned” with the curriculum, Snyder added.
Walmer acknowledged there can be a concern the passing percentage could be lower, but more students will be taking AP courses. Data provided by AP-Tip IN, though, shows the program does improve the passing percentage too.
Snyder was previously a principal at Whitko High School where AP-Tip IN was used and said he saw significant, positive changes in the number of students taking AP courses. Students such as those receiving free or reduced price lunches or English as a second language students were encouraged to take AP courses and many chose to.
Snyder and Walmer emphasized the five or six teachers at Wawasee who will be impacted the most by the program have made a commitment and “it will be a lot of work for them,” Snyder said. Part of the application process for AP-Tip IN involves teachers being interviewed apart from administrators and Wawasee’s teachers showed they are willing to make the necessary commitment, Walmer noted.
Goals for the program are lofty. For example, last year there were 88 students enrolled in STEM AP courses at Wawasee, but the goal for next year is to have 205 enrolled.
But, as Walmer said, “we want to boost the college readiness in our students.”