Advanced Placement numbers rise at Petoskey High School
In Kacey Riley's AP English Language and Composition class, students Sara Donakowski, William Chatterson, Shelby Laser, and Megan Heintschel are annotating their thinking while analyzing the text Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.. (Courtesy Photo / October 9, 2013)
Advanced Placement classes are college level classes, usually offered in the junior or senior years, with the content set and monitored by the College Board. If after taking these rigorous classes, high school students score a three out of five or better on a standardized exam, most universities, including highly selective schools, award college credit for the coursework.
Petoskey High School offers AP classes in government, U.S. history, microeconomics, macroeconomics, composition, literature, calculus, and biology.
“AP classes provide a great opportunity for students to study challenging material that can count for college credit for those who put forth the effort,” said Chris Jorgensen, AP biology teacher.
In 2012, Petoskey High School received an AP Award from the College Board for increasing the numbers of students taking the rigorous exams, while at the same time increasing their scores.
From 2009 to 2012, the numbers of students taking AP classes increased from 149 to 221. The numbers of AP classes taken by these students also increased from 225 to 324. Scores of Petoskey students vary by subject area, but consistently surpass the global averages. Notably, the economics program taught by Zach Yonker, averaged more students participating in the test and higher test scores than the international averages over the past four years. Students may test in microeconomics and/or macroeconomics. Since 2009, each year, an average of 45 students have taken one of the two tests with scores above the international average scores and above the 3 cut score for receiving college credit.
The reasons for high school student to take Advanced Placement classes extend beyond scoring high enough to get credit from a university, according to teachers and counselors. Students who challenge themselves in these classes are better prepared for college classes.
Calculus teacher Jamie Buchanan has taught AP for seven years.
“Students receive a lot more instruction in an AP class, then they would in a comparable college class. Here they get five days of instruction for a whole year. In college, the class might be held for four days for one semester. Even if a kid doesn’t get credit from testing, it’s a huge advantage over someone who hasn’t taken the class,” Buchanan said.
“AP data over time shows that students who take the classes and the tests do better in college,” added Lynn Slanec, director of teaching and learning.
Kim Block, who has taught AP U.S. History for four years, noted that her syllabus is approved by the College Board. She and other AP teachers attend special training in the summer to keep up with curricular changes.
“Once kids have struggled through an Advanced Placement class, they thank us,” Block said. “There is conflict at the beginning of the year. Taking an AP class is the toughest job that students have ever loved.”
Honors students naturally tend to gravitate toward Advanced Placement classes. For some students, they may face the first B+ grade that they have had in their lives. For the first time these students are really challenged.
“It’s sometimes tougher on the parents to see that B on a transcript,” Block said.
Though Petoskey doesn’t give additional grade points to students who take Advanced Placement classes like some high schools do, there is a definite college admissions advantage for students taking these classes.
“Colleges look at the difficulty of classes that a student has taken through high school as part of the admissions process,” explained veteran counselor Karen Starkey. “We have to rank whether or not the student has taken the most challenging path through our high schools.”
She pointed out that the admissions process is very competitive, with the University of Michigan only accepting 13 percent of applicants last year.
“Petoskey has done well in getting kids accepted to major universities,” Starkey said. Though most Petoskey college-bound students go to North Central Michigan College, Michigan State University ranks second and University of Michigan ranks third in where Petoskey graduates go.
Any student who wants to take an AP class at Petoskey High School is encouraged to take it.
“AP teachers meet one-on-one to talk to students about their challenges and to support them through the program,” said Kacey Riley, AP English language and composition teacher.
Glen Young, AP literature teacher, is careful not to equate grades with knowledge. Though grades may not be as high in an AP class, as they would have been if a student took an easier path, the AP preparation provides students the knowledge base to succeed in college.
“Success to me is the kid who emails me the first week in college referring to material they are covering that they remember from my class. They thank me,” Young said.
“After the test is over in May, I always push on to the next chapter in calculus,” Buchanan said. “That isn’t a popular at the time, but I actually got an email that thanked me for covering the extra material. The student said that all but about 20 percent of his college calculus class, he had seen before in my class.”
“Students will come out of an AP class with resilience,” Buchanan added. “They will know how to tackle a challenging problem from beginning to end.”