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Sup Focuses on AP Exam Results

Half of Norwalk students who took Advanced Placement exams in high school last year passed them. But Superintendent Susan Marks would like to see that number closer to 70 percent.  “A lot of things have to add up in our system for kids to be taking and performing well on AP exams,” says Marks who thinks participation in AP courses and passing rates of the exam are important measures for the school system.

Advanced Placement classes, available in a variety of subjects, are considered college level classes.  High school students often receive college credit if they pass the AP exam taken at the end of a course.   Taken mainly by seniors and some juniors, the exams are graded 1 to 5.  Typically, 3 and above is considered passing. Earlier this week, 44 Norwalk students--33 from Norwalk High and 11 from Brien McMahon-- were designated as AP Scholars, meaning they took at least three AP exams in different subjects and scored 3 or higher on them.

The Central Office has not been tracking AP test data, but Marks plans to change that and says she’ll present information on last year’s  AP exam results and SAT scores to the Board before the end of the year.

In addition to raising the number of students who pass the exam, Marks wants to increase the number of students taking the exam, especially minority students.  According to data by the College Board, overall as well as minority participation has increased over the years.  For example, in 2009-2010, 359 Norwalk students took AP exams compared to 206 in 2005-2006.  “I’d like to see every senior take at least one AP class,” says Marks.

In 2009-2010, 36 percent of those who took the exam were minority students-- 11 percent more Blacks and 23 percent more Hispanics took the exam than in 08-09.   Marks is encouraged by the upward trend but hopes for improvement.  “That still doesn’t match the diversity in our schools.  We need to make sure that we are taking away any barriers and low level classes that prevent minority kids from taking these classes,” she says.

Marks intends to drill down on the AP test results.  She has requested a list of scores per school and  by subject matter.  “We need to find out which teachers are preparing their kids to take the test and which teachers need more training,” says Marks.  She has reached out to the College Board representatives in CT and set up meetings with them for the high school staff.

In addition, Marks is adding a line item in next year’s budget that will pay for all tenth graders to take the PSAT.  Marks says the PSATs are a predictive measure of  how a student will do on the SAT and a good tool to focus study.  “I want to get the kids started on taking these tests. Usually, each time they take them they get better,” says Marks.

“We expect our kids to be ready for college, “ says Marks.  “We have to help them get there.”

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