Richmond County school board upset about low AP scores

Richmond County Board of Education members and the superintendent’s staff clashed over low Advanced Placement exam scores during their Friday retreat as officials grappled over how to improve flagging test results.


Vice Chairwoman Helen Minchew opened discussion on the matter, saying the low AP exam scores “needed to be addressed” before next year’s test period.

“We have incredibly low percentages of students able to pass these tests,” she said. “Why are so many students not passing the final exam and getting college credit? We pay to give students the opportunity to take these AP tests. We need to make sure students are prepared for taking the exams at the end of the year. They need to be more serious about it.”

Only 19 percent of the 1,149 Richmond County AP students were able to score the needed 3 or higher to pass their AP final exam during the 2012-13 school year. In comparison, 55.4 percent of the 142,010 Georgia AP students made passing scores.

To gain full college credit for the AP course, students must pass the final exam. AP exam pass rates were lower than the state average for a majority of public and magnet schools in Richmond County.

Superintendent Frank Roberson said steps were being taken to increase monitoring and further audit schools giving AP exams.

“They were procedures for teaching AP courses that were not in place at all the schools,” he said. “All students were being taught to the AP standard, but it’s obvious more work must be done. We are going to monitor and closely audit the class practices of AP teachers.”

Roberson said his office was considering additional standards to make sure students were fully prepared to take the exam at the end of each year.

“We could take extra steps to make sure our students are qualified to sit in on AP exams,” Roberson said. “Other schools do it that way.”

Some board members were not convinced their concerns over the low scores were being taken seriously.

Board member Jack Padgett said a general lack of test preparation contributed to the low scores, and students that seemed prepared to take the AP exams might not have had
the training necessary to gain a passing score.

“Many of the students that failed the AP exams had A averages in their classes, as I understand it,” Padgett said. “That should show you something’s wrong with how students are prepared for the exam. It’s something to keep in mind going forward.”

Board member Frank Dolan said AP teachers and school administrators were not “properly doing their job” to improve scores.

“Someone is not doing their job here. Something’s wrong,” Dolan said. “Tell me who. We need to solve this problem. In the private sector, this sort of thing would not fly. We talk on and on about how we’re trying to improve these things, but we never see any change.”

Chairwoman Venus Cain said immediate action was needed to improve scores, and that school officials should better communicate their needs to board members.

“We’re frustrated. We’re being told that things are being improved, and that great things are happening,” Cain said. “But when the numbers come out, they are far different than what we have been told. We cannot continue on this way. We have to all take responsibility.”

Members of the superintendent’s office said they were trying to work with schools to improve scores but felt overloaded
as the district’s workforce continued to dwindle.

“We’re stretched thin. We need to address it,” said Missoura Ashe, the assistant superintendent for elementary schools. “When we have 22 schools to cover, it’s hard to be involved in all of them. But we do what we can. I personally feel stretched. It’s hard for me personally.”

Board members agreed to continue to discuss efforts to improve AP exam scores at a later date.

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• The board considered changing attendance zones in order to allow military families living outside Fort Gordon to attend Freedom Park School instead of overloaded schools such as Langford Middle School and Sue Reynolds Elementary School.

• The board received an overview on the ongoing “rightsizing” project.

• The board reviewed its Board Ethics and Rules of Courtesy Standards.



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