Education

More News | |

More students taking AP exams despite low success rate

Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014 6:21 PM
Last updated Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 1:19 AM
  • Follow Education

Lucy C. Laney High School senior James Holmon is no slacker.

Back | Next
 Marquez Hall helps James Holmon with a problem during  AP calculus class at Lucy C. Laney High School.  TODD BENNETT/STAFF
TODD BENNETT/STAFF
Marquez Hall helps James Holmon with a problem during AP calculus class at Lucy C. Laney High School.

This year he manages a 3.53 GPA while playing football and basketball for Laney, taking four Advanced Placement courses and fitting in no less than three hours of homework a night.

He’s the type of student who gets offered a full ride to Howard University, where he’ll head in the fall to play football and study computer engineering.

Holmon, 17, is not accustomed to failure. Still there’s one thing he has not mastered despite practice tests and hours of review.

Although he has passed all of his AP courses taken during four years at Laney, Holmon has never made a passing grade on the grueling final exam, which is required for students to earn college credit.

And he’s not alone. Out of 1,149 AP students in Richmond County, only 19 percent earned a score of 3 or higher on an exam in 2013. Test scores range from 1 to 5; 3 or higher is considered passing.

Despite the low success rates on the exams, many students and teachers say taking on the college-level courses is a victory in itself and that a passing exam grade is rarely the goal. The courses expose students to rigor they wouldn’t find in traditional high school classes and give insight into what they’ll experience in a college setting.

“By taking AP, I wanted a challenge,” said Laney senior Ashley Manker, who will attend Georgia Regents University in the fall to study early childhood education. “I love to learn. I like learning more than just the basics. I wanted to see how far I could take myself, so it was never really about the exam.”

As Georgia has fine-tuned its focus on college and career readiness, the number of graduates leaving high school having taken an AP exam has more than doubled over the past decade to 34,515. About half of those AP graduates left high school without college credit, according to an annual report released this month by the College Board, which administers the program.

“We never hear from students or teachers that college credit is the sole value they see in the program,” said Trevor Packer, College Board senior vice president for AP. “Students and teachers really value the culture of high aspirations and focus on college that they create in these classrooms. It’s how they felt included in something important educationally.”

Holmon said he wanted to be prepared for the type of work he’ll see in college, so when he leaves Augusta, he won’t be overwhelmed.

“I think we’ll have already seen the material by the time we get to college, where other students may be learning it for the first time,” Holmon said.

However, Richmond County Superintendent Frank Roberson said despite the inherent benefits of participating in the classes, the district must help more students take college credit along with them, which will help save on tuition costs.

Out of the 311 final exams taken in Laney’s Academy for Advanced Placement Studies, a magnet program that accepts students from all attendance zones, only two students earned a passing score of 3 or higher in 2013.

None of the 56 exams taken at T.W. Josey High School ended in a passing grade. At Academy of Richmond County, 29 students earned college credit out of 192 exams taken. The magnet schools also struggle – 123 students at John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School earned a 3 or better out of 444 exams taken in 2013, and 17 made the cut at A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet School out of 115 tests administered.

Roberson said he has asked the curriculum department to audit the AP courses to make sure the curriculum is aligned with the exams so students are not shocked by the material on test day.

“We live in a test-and-measure oriented society,” Roberson said in an e-mail. “It is imperative for us to prepare our students to achieve at the expected levels if they are going to be productive and successful in an international community.”

Packer said students nationwide are issued the same exams and that AP teachers’ syllabuses must be approved by the College Board to be used in classes. He said rather than teacher ineffectiveness, some of the struggles with earning college credit can be linked to how well students are prepared in elementary and middle grades.

Laney teacher LaShawn White, a former computer engineer, said the material she teaches in her AP statistics course is more difficult than what she saw in college. At the same time, her students learn research techniques and improve their writing, which is part of daily assignments and homework.

White said the AP courses are truly set up like a college class – students are responsible for reading the syllabus and keeping track of due dates, they must explain their work rather than just give short answers and they must be self-motivated.

After earning a passing grade in the course, she has seen students not show up to take the exam or give up halfway through.

“I believe the preparatory pace is more valuable than the passage of the exam,” White said. “Getting that exposure to that rigor, you couldn’t trade it for anything. In my classroom, they truly experience the ‘I’m the professor, you’re the student’ scenario.”

ADVANCED PLACEMENT TEST RATE IN RICHMOND COUNTY

SCHOOLSTotal # of AP Students  Total # of Exams Taken  % of Total AP Students with Scores of 3+  
 201120122013201120122013201120122013
Georgia72,76478,29283,327121,486132,922142,01054.756.655.4
System1,248120611491,8962,047178219.221.019.2
ARC20713814526119819214.018.820
Butler5563385873470.00.00
Cross Creek988462141114848.210.712.9
Davidson22118722946038444460.268.453.7
Glenn Hills791391111032111655.12.90
Hephzibah607690801041186.715.811.1
Johnson1161418618823511530.228.419.8
Josey6027448437560.00.00
Laney1922001992483793110.51.51
Westside16015114527331225015.619.922.1

Note: Students can take exams in more than one AP topic each year.

Comments (42) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
corgimom
33199
Points
corgimom 02/23/14 - 07:39 pm
9
4
This speaks to the poor

This speaks to the poor quality education received by children in RCBOE. Because why is it that so many other children can pass these exams, but children in RC cannot?

When 81% of the students can't pass tests, there is something very, very WRONG.

According to the news article, the pass rate in Georgia is 50%, which is appropriate.

What does the RCBOE plan to do about this?

Connor Threlkeld
792
Points
Connor Threlkeld 02/23/14 - 08:42 pm
5
0
Corgimom, we're about to put

Corgimom, we're about to put some more statistics online to go with the story. The numbers that surprised me the most was seeing that even the magnet school students struggled with the tests.

countyman
20244
Points
countyman 02/24/14 - 12:02 am
1
6
Source please??

Where is the Chronicle getting their numbers from?

''More Georgia seniors are scoring a 3 or higher – a passing score – on Advanced Placement (AP) exams compared to last year, according to The College Board's AP Report to the Nation released today. The report shows that 18,535 students scored a 3 or higher this year, compared to 17,767 last year. A higher percentage (21.3%) of Georgia’s seniors are scoring a 3 or higher compared to the U.S. average (20.1%) – one of 17 states to have a higher percentage than the national average. This report measures progress of the Class of 2013.''

http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/get-schooled/2014/feb/23/georgia-broadens-acc...

corgimom
33199
Points
corgimom 02/24/14 - 12:22 am
7
2
It didn't surprise me.

It didn't surprise me.

Take a look at the stats, minorities don't do well on the AP tests- and RC is overwhelmingly minority.

corgimom
33199
Points
corgimom 02/24/14 - 12:31 am
3
2
Countyman, let me clarify

Countyman, let me clarify this for you.

34K students took the test. Over half of them passed with a score of 3 or better.

Of the total number of seniors in Georgia, (that means of ALL seniors, even those who don't take the test) 21.3% of them are scoring a 3 or higher. More senior students in Georgia take the test and pass with a score of 3 or better than the national average.

You need to read the story very carefully. "Total number of seniors" means just that, not total number of seniors taking the test.

What Tracey McManus said is absolutely correct.

writer
229
Points
writer 02/24/14 - 12:38 am
2
0
Did something happen last year

to bring down Davidson's scores? On the governor's lists of AP merit schools for 2013 and 2012 (based on the 2012 & 2011 tests), three area schools are listed: Davidson, Greenbrier & Lakeside. A merit school is defined as a school where at least 20% of the population take AP exams and 50% of the exams earned a 3 or more. The statistics in the story for Davidson are much lower than that and would represent a significant drop.

writer
229
Points
writer 02/24/14 - 12:44 am
1
0
Note that the AJC blog is referring to the number of seniors

taking and passing the test. In Columbia County, students 9-12 take AP classes and tests in various subjects and I assume it is the same in Richmond County. Thus, the statistics for an individual school would include more than just seniors.

countyman
20244
Points
countyman 02/24/14 - 02:06 am
1
3
Clarification

Writer.. The previous article from last year must have concentrated on the senior class then..

'Last year, 21 percent of AP students earned a passing grade on the exam, compared with 19.2 percent the year before, which mirrors the state average but is still a grim figure, said Richmond County Board of Education member Helen Minchew.'
http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/education/2013-02-20/school-district-p...

While some publications rank Davidson the number 1 school in Georgia, the US News & World Report(based on 2013) had them listed at number 3 and AR Johnson the 12th best high school in the state..
http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/georgia/rankings

KSL
131325
Points
KSL 02/24/14 - 04:13 am
2
1
Wow

Apples and oranges on 2 counts Aiken Co and Richmond Co. 2 decades ago and now.

AP courses are great. My son was a sophomore his second semester at USC. He was in the Honors College and on the football team. Sounds like a problem on the teaching level.

Or a problem of the people encouraged to take AP in the first place.

I wish the reporter of this story would contact me.

KSL
131325
Points
KSL 02/24/14 - 03:58 am
3
1
I wish Mr Holman well. He

I wish Mr Holman well. He sounds like the type of student my husband has tried to help, in actually teaching classes, and being the licensed person in charge of a professional coming along.

ymnbde
9903
Points
ymnbde 02/24/14 - 06:46 am
6
2
school choice, anyone?

which of these schools would you choose for your child?
sending a child to one of these bottom schools is child abuse
and if the racial make-up of each school had an adjoining column
we would see racism, actual working racism
oh, democrats and your dogmatic belief in big government
what evil you have wrought
blacks are 13% of the population
are 13% of doctors black?
at sports, black men only fail to other black men
but where the government has not "failed to tread"
blacks fail
if the government put all the athletic coaches into a union with an "Athletic Department" setting standards for the entire country
and focusing on coach tenure and coach job security
instead of player improvement
blacks would fail at sports too
the government (democrats) consider it a "war on women"
if wal-mart has more female check-out workers than men
yet those same (goodness what racists!) democrats
don't blink an eye when their education policies
where they FORCE black kids to sumbit (a more appropriate spelling) to their power
yield very few doctors
very few professional black adults at all
and actually produce far more prisoners
that is power
that is racism
that is the power of racism
and that is the democratic party
and that is disgusting

jimmymac
41331
Points
jimmymac 02/24/14 - 07:24 am
0
0
EDUCATION
Unpublished

This is an indictment of our current educational system. They've dumbed down the curriculum so that kids can get passing grades but these stats show that they haven't learned anything. Our country is falling further and further behind other nations in educating our kids and unless drastic changes are made all our engineers working in this country will come from foreign countries. We're raising generations of ignorant uneducated people who are too lazy to get a proper education. Their parents are complicit in this because they insist that little Johnny not be allowed to fail. So year after year the ignorant are passed along in the assembly line our educational system has become. Teachers have to deal with apathetic, hostile parents and students. Heaven help us!

paraprofessional
45
Points
paraprofessional 02/24/14 - 07:43 am
2
0
AP exams

What about the private schools? I know that many students at Aquinas get college credit from their AP courses.

corgimom
33199
Points
corgimom 02/24/14 - 08:02 am
1
2
blacks are 13% of the

blacks are 13% of the population
are 13% of doctors black?

Women are 50% of the population, are 50% of doctors women?

Why, there must be discrimination against them!

ymnbde
9903
Points
ymnbde 02/24/14 - 08:11 am
1
1
oh, corgimom

that was truly profound...
like saying the smell of old cheese and skunks is unpleasant
and we'll just leave it at that

allhans
23776
Points
allhans 02/24/14 - 09:44 am
1
0
A few of the schools listed

A few of the schools listed are dreadful.....

Another reason to have
"school choice".

When I was in school we called it memorizing when the student did well daily but failed the tests.

Dixieman
15331
Points
Dixieman 02/24/14 - 09:46 am
2
0
Follow-up article, please

Chronicle -- Please obtain and publish the results for the private and parochial schools and homeschooled students in the CSRA so we can compare them to the public school scores listed in today's articles.
My bookmaking window is open. 20:1 says those scores are better. Any takers? (Sorry, no cash bets -- points only!)
Where would you like your kids to go to school?

Little Lamb
46405
Points
Little Lamb 02/24/14 - 09:55 am
4
0
Statistics

Here is a summation that is interesting:

. . . . . . . . . . Percentage of AP Students With Scores of 3+
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2011 . . . . . 2012 . . . . . 2013 . . . . . . .
Richmond . . . . . . 19.2 . . . . . 21.0 . . . . . . 19.2
. Georgia . . . . . . . 54.7 . . . . . 56.6 . . . . . . 55.4

What is clear is that Richmond County public school system AP program is half as effective as the state of Georgia public school systems. That’s nothing to write home about.

Mr. Thackeray
942
Points
Mr. Thackeray 02/24/14 - 10:18 am
3
0
It's pretty simple really.

It's pretty simple really. Either they letting kids in that are not really qualified or the teachers are not doing t heir job in preparing them. Been there, seen that, was a pubic school teacher for 32 years.

itsanotherday1
43814
Points
itsanotherday1 02/24/14 - 11:13 am
4
0
I would say it is a

I would say it is a combination of both Mr. Thackeray; with the former being the biggest contributor. The students were likely academically unprepared to be in an advanced program because of poor education the previous 10 years.

And that is a doggone shame for kids like Holman who WANT to learn and succeed. I guarantee you if he had been going to better schools he would have passed the exams.

Riverman1
84933
Points
Riverman1 02/24/14 - 11:14 am
3
0
Compare Percentage of Those Taking Tests With State

I wonder if the percentage of those in Richmond County taking AP classes are higher than the state average? Those who are not AP material shouldn't be taking AP courses. Schools should not encourage everyone to take AP courses or even the SAT.

soitgoes
820
Points
soitgoes 02/24/14 - 11:23 am
3
0
This is why

my kids go to private school. You get what you pay for, except for Richmond County citizens. You are NOT getting what you pay (taxes) for from the public school system. I pity the kids at Butler, Laney and Josey...

countyman
20244
Points
countyman 02/24/14 - 12:05 pm
1
2
Stats

Little Lamb... Please compare the main counties in Georgia versus Richmond County and not the suburbs or exurbs of larger cities...

I seriously doubt more than 2 schools in Columbia County or Aiken County might have over 50% scoring a three of higher...

Lakeside is the best school in Columbia County and they probably had around 50%-65% rate..

Keep in mind ARC has both the IB program and AP classes..

Dixieman & Soitgoes.. I would rather send my child to Davidson, AR Johnson, Westside, Cross Creek, and ARC before private school.. I have friends who attended Augusta Christian, Augusta Prep, and EDS...

Echoes86
911
Points
Echoes86 02/24/14 - 12:22 pm
2
1
Curriculum

I know teachers hate to teach to the test, but maybe it needs to be done a bit more in order to reach a higher percentage of passing grades. I know the benefit of AP classes are that they are a challenge, but I'd like for students to get college credit when they can as well. AP kids are SMART, and they deserve to get something that benefits them at the end of all of their hard work. (besides just a graduation credit)

Little Lamb
46405
Points
Little Lamb 02/24/14 - 12:27 pm
2
0
Probability

It does not matter what you "seriously doubt" or what you think is probable, Countyman. I was using information published in the paper that shows RC school system to have much lower pass rate on these college credit tests that the average of the entire state of Georgia. That includes your so-called "main counties" and all the rest.

What percentage would you say pass that test in Johnson County, for example? What percentage in Dodge County? It doesn't matter.

Sweet son
10555
Points
Sweet son 02/24/14 - 12:46 pm
3
0
Needed!

Teacher evaluations!

seenitB4
88203
Points
seenitB4 02/24/14 - 01:01 pm
3
1
These results STINK

I would be very upset with this....thank goodness I no longer have children in Richmond county schools.

countyman
20244
Points
countyman 02/24/14 - 02:36 pm
1
4
Bias

Richmond county is the ONLY county in the CSRA to offer two of the top twelve high schools in the state.. The new magnet high school in South Augusta will be another top rated school in the future.

Why do the same few people ALWAYS want to generalize everything in RC? They don't even live in Richmond County, but can tell you everything about it..

Little Lamb.. Richmond County is not competing against the suburban counties. The state of Georgia will compare Richmond County versus Fulton, Chatham, Bibb, Muscogee, etc..

I'm using the statistics from 2010 and Lakeside should be in the same range..

countyman
20244
Points
countyman 02/24/14 - 02:59 pm
1
3
Facts

Can we please stop trying to generalize RC?
http://apps.washingtonpost.com/local/highschoolchallenge/schools/2013/li...

According to the Washington Post... The most challenging schools in Richmond/Columbia are Davidson and ARC... Lakeside in Columbia County ranked third..

Davidson: 4.414
Richmond: 2.083
Lakeside: 1.871

Many kids from middle class and wealthy families attend Richmond, but you have multiple lower income neighborhoods near ARC including Harrisburg.. The IB program at Richmond will continue to attract many well to do families..

seenitB4
88203
Points
seenitB4 02/24/14 - 04:00 pm
3
0
ctyman

You should heed your very own words!!

Back to Top

Top headlines

SRS shipments halted until 2016

Savannah River Site can't resume shipments of Cold War nuclear waste materials to an underground repository in New Mexico until at least 2016 when the federal government reopens the facility to ...
Search Augusta jobs