By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Two local high schools were recognized by the Indiana Department of Education today for their successful efforts to increase student participation and pass rates in Advanced Placement classes.
The two local schools, Northridge High School of Middlebury and Fairfield Junior-Senior High School of Goshen, joined a total of 35 schools from across the state in receiving the honor during a recognition ceremony held at the Indiana Museum of Art in Indianapolis.
Featured speakers during the event included Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers and College Board Vice President of Advanced Placement and College Readiness Trevor Packer.
According to the IDOE, Advanced Placement courses are essentially college-level courses that students can take while still in high school. The courses are typically more rigorous than regular high school courses, and students who pass the courses are often eligible to receive college credit.
Beginning in 2009, Bennett and the IDOE established a goal for 25 percent of all Indiana high school students to receive a passing score on an AP or International Baccalaureate exam or successfully complete duel credit coursework.
Current IDOE records indicate that the percentage of Indiana high school graduates passing an AP exam increased from 12.4 percent in 2010 to 14 percent in 2011. In 2009, the pass rate was 10.4 percent. That increase reportedly gave Indiana the second highest two-year growth in the nation.
According to Daniel Hile, assistant principal and IB/AP coordinator at Northridge High School, the 35 schools honored at today’s ceremony were selected due to the fact that at least 25 percent of their seniors took and/or passed an AP exam during the 2010-11 school year.
“We’re very excited,” Hile said of the honor. “Basically what they’re doing is setting apart the schools that had a high percentage take the exams, as well as have a large percentage score well.”
While increased AP participation at Northridge has been a goal of the school’s for the past few years, Hile noted that the adoption of an International Baccalaureate program at the school in early 2010 did produce a slight shift away from the AP push to that of increased participation in IB courses. Currently the school only offers AP classes in English and calculus.
“Our primary focus the last couple years has actually been to increase the numbers in our IB program,” Hile said. “However, we always encourage students to explore all their options in the AP program as well, and we’re happy with the number that have taken advantage, and we’d like to see those numbers grow. Really, we’re just very appreciative that we have both of these programs to offer our students.”
At Fairfield High School, Principal Ben Tonagel seemed equally pleased with his school’s recent recognition by the state.
“We’re always going to welcome public recognition for the hard work that goes into what we do,” Tonagel said, “and we’re really appreciative of the honor.”
According to Tonagel, students at Fairfield are and will continue to be strongly encouraged to participate in dual credit and college prep courses such as those provided through the AP program.
“All those programs are emphasized here at Fairfield, and have been growing over the last few years, especially with the increasing emphasis from the state to give kids greater access to these programs,” Tonagel said. “In fact, we’ve expanded those programs significantly over the last three or four years.”
Currently, the high school offers its students AP Physics, AP chemistry, AP English and AP calculus.
“Then coming up next school year we’ll be adding AP U.S. History as well,” he said.
As for why he feels providing AP courses is important for the students in the long run, Tonagel said it really all comes down to preparedness and cost.
“I think it’s very important that kids who are going on to study in college are prepared for the increased difficulty of coursework they’re going to encounter,” Tonagel said. “In addition, you also have to look at the cost benefit there too with the college credit they can get from taking AP classes. College is very expensive these days, and we don’t want that first year of college to be a big shock for the students.”