Woodland’s AP scores outpace state’s, nation’s

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BEACON FALLS — The percentage of Woodland Regional High School Advanced Placement (AP) test-takers who were eligible for college credit due to qualifying scores (three or higher on a five-point scale) increased to 81 percent last year, up from 78 percent in the 2007-08 school year.

The percentage of test-takers in all Connecticut public schools scoring a three or better in the 2007-08 term was about 71 percent. Nationally, 56 percent of public school students who take AP tests score a three or higher.

Woodland’s overall average score, however, dipped to 3.51 from 3.61, a 2.7 percent decrease. The overall average score for all Connecticut public schools in 2008 was 3.2, 7.6 percent lower than Woodland’s average. The national average score was 2.78.

Statewide and national data for the 2008-09 school year are not yet available.

Woodland Principal Dr. Arnold Frank reported at last Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting that some 12 percent of the student body took AP tests last year, a number Frank said the school is “very proud of.”

AP courses are nationalized, meaning the curriculum is the same here as it is in California, Texas, or New York. They are designed to prepare high school students for college-level courses—and also to offer them the testing option, in which they might score high enough to earn college credits. Students taking the course don’t need to take the test, and students who aren’t in the course can opt to take the test. Anyone can waive into the courses at Woodland, regardless of qualifications.

Tests are scored from one to five; five being equivalent to the average score of a college student earning an A, four a B, three a C, and so forth. Scores of three to five generally qualify a student for college credits.

Some colleges, however, do not accept AP credits or accept them only on a limited basis.

Regardless, some judge a high school’s performance based on how many of its students take one or more AP tests. Newsweek ranks its list of best high schools based on what percentage of its graduates take AP tests and/or one of two similar types (International Baccalaureate and Cambridge tests). The list does not weigh scores in the ranking.  Sixteen Connecticut schools made last year’s list; Woodland was not among them.

According to Frank, AP tests cost about $83 a pop, but Woodland students are responsible for this cost themselves—and since some high schools pay for the tests, he said Newsweek’s data might be skewed.

In fact, the only expense incurred by Region 16 for the AP program is the $700-800 it costs to permanently train a faculty member to administer an AP-level course, an expense which Region 16 Superintendant James Agostine says is really “a wash.”

Woodland offers 12 AP courses. CollegeBoard, the not-for-profit association that administers the test, offers 34—including such varied subjects as art history, Latin literature, human geography, microeconomics, and various foreign languages.

Woodland—which began its AP program in 2006 and has since seen participation triple—offers high school staples like biology, calculus, statistics, and U.S. history.

More Woodland students (39) took the psychology test than any other and scored an average of 3.692. The highest average score (4.83) was in English literature and composition; six students took that test. Music theory and calculus students also scored exceptionally well (4.167 and 3.857, respectively). The only subject areas in which the average scores were less than three were French language (1) and environmental science (2.78).

This year, 218 Woodland students are enrolled in AP courses.