For high school students, the experience of taking a college course doesn’t have to wait until after graduation. It’s readily available in the classrooms of Woodland and Naugatuck high schools in the form of Advanced Placement courses and many local students are taking advantage of the opportunity.
Advanced Placement (AP) courses are year-long, college-level classes high school students can take. At the end of the year, students can choose to take the course’s final exam and if they score well enough they can earn college credit.
Over the past six years, the number of students at Woodland taking AP courses has nearly tripled.
According to Region 16 Superintendent of Schools James Agostine 49 students were enrolled in AP courses during the 2005-06 school year. This year, he said, 139 students are taking AP courses.
Administrators attributed the dramatic increase to several factors.
Woodland Regional High School Principal Arnold Frank pointed to the addition of AP courses over the years, the school now offers 12, and to the effort of teachers as catalysts of the trend.
“I think the combination of both has encouraged and inspired kids,” Frank said.
Frank added more students are also realizing that by taking and passing AP courses they can save money on college.
Agostine said as more students take AP courses, other students notice it as well and want to do take them too, which in turn elevates the achievement level of all students.
“It raises the bar for every kid in the high school,” Agostine said about the AP program.
Last year, he said, the average score on AP exams was 3.25 on a scale of 1 to 5.
Agostine said the tendency is to focus on SAT and Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) scores. However, he said, the rising number of students enrolling in AP courses and the strong scores speaks volumes of the quality of Woodland’s students and staff.
Frank echoed Agostine’s sentiments.
Frank said AP classes are very rigorous, and students who take them need to be able to meet the challenging curriculum.
“I think it says our kids are willing to do that,” said Frank.
The rising enrollment of AP classes at Woodland has Region 16 school officials exploring making the classes available to more students by opening up the classes to sophomores, currently only seniors and juniors at Woodland can take the classes.
The sight of underclassmen in AP courses is the norm at Naugatuck High.
Last school year, 182 students took AP courses at Naugatuck High according to Principal Janice Saam. Of the 182 students, 21 freshmen and one sophomore were enrolled in AP courses.
Saam said the school’s philosophy is that any student who shows interest and the promise and dedication to take an AP class will be allowed to enroll.
“It’s a great way to get students thinking about being in an AP track early in their high school career,” said Saam about freshmen taking AP classes.
Currently, Naugatuck High offers 11 AP courses. Over the seven or so years Saam as been at Naugatuck High, she said the number of students taking AP courses has remained steady.
AP classes are a big change to what students are used to, Saam explained. The courses require more time outside of the classroom than a normal high school class and some require students to work on a summer packet preceding the course in the fall.
The extra work needed for AP courses is a great precursor to college and helps students develop time management skills, Saam said.
“I certainly think it’s a great way for students to get a sense for what they going to be facing once they leave high school,” she said.