By SHEA STASKOWSKI
For the eighth straight year, Mississippi students have helped contribute to the number of high school students participating in advanced placement (AP) courses that is outpacing the national rate.
According to a report recently released by the Southern Regional Education Board, the number of students participating and excelling in AP courses continues to grow. The SREB also reports a significant increase in the number of minority students participating in AP courses.
In 2005, the total of Mississippi high school students taking AP exams was 5,910 compared to 9,258 in 2010. The number of African-American students taking the AP exam in 2005 was 1,461 across the state compared to 2,427 in 2010.
Locally, Starkville High School has seen the same trends.
In addition to the increase seen in AP courses, SHS has noticed an increase in the number of students scoring exceptionally well, with five students last year earning the AP Scholars Award for an average scores of 3.25 on a 5-point scale.
“In Mississippi, 3,173 students took the AP US History test in 2010. Out of this group, 317 scored a 3 or higher. Among the eight students I taught during the 2009-2010 academic year, three got a 4 and two got a 3. Among the group of 3’s, one was an African-American female,” said Dr. Craig Piper, SHS AP U.S. History teacher.
SHS currently offers seven AP courses. Two of those courses, U.S. History and European History, are taught by Piper and Ty Adiar, respectively. Piper and Adair have recently been commended for their contributions to the College Board’s AP Program.
Each summer, Piper and Adair read and evaluate the AP exam essays for the program. Both teachers read roughly 1,000 essays during the course of the summer. Being selected as essay readers has given both Piper and Adair’s students a tremendous advantage in the classroom, both agree.
“You can tell them what to focus on and shape your class around what the readers are looking for,” Piper explained of the advantages.
“A typical high school AP teacher wouldn’t have access to that kind of information,” Adair added.
Both Piper and Adair feel AP courses are extremely beneficial for high school students.
“The college preparation they receive — that’s the biggest thing,” Piper explained. “We hope they can go to any college in the U.S. and show up to class and be able to compete with any other student there.”
“They learn how to study on the college level while still in high school,” Adair added.
Piper and Adair both have stories of former students returning to visit SHS and thanking them for the advantage the students have now that they are in college because of their AP courses, the teachers recalled.
Not only do AP courses prepare students for academic life at the collegiate level, it also allows students to earn college credits while still in high school.
With the recent push within the Starkville School District to offer a variety of learning options, including dual enrollment, Piper and Adair recognize some of the benefits of AP versus dual enrollment.
AP courses offer students a chance to take classes that are on par with freshman-level college courses while remaining in the comfort of their high school class. Dual enrollment also costs students college tuition while AP courses can be taken at no extra cost.
“We still realize the kids are high school kids,” Piper said. “AP teachers are in the position to evaluate them on the college level, but gradually help them get out of the mindset of being a high school kid to a college student.”
“You have more time to have them in class, and you can guide them through and teach them they skills they need to be ready for college,” Adair added.
“We’re also able to have more personal relationships with our students. In college, you very seldom learn the names of your students, let alone correspond with them individually,” Piper said. “It’s very rewarding when you see your students working hard to get better — that’s the most fun part to watch.”