Thursday, October 11, 2012

Academic Rigor


Academic rigor is alive and well in Oconee County Schools.  As we reflect on our outstanding achievement on national-level tests such as the ACT and SAT – and seek more national-level comparisons through data in our elementary and middle schools with MAP testing – the need to maintain and improve upon that academic rigor takes center stage.  Thus, this week we will review a brief history of Advanced Placement course offerings, achievement, and participation at the high school level and discuss how we are doing currently and how we might improve even more.
Advanced Placement course work is seen as the gold standard by many in education. Simply stated, it is college-level course work taken within the high school setting. This course work prepares students for Advanced Placement (AP) tests, which allow for the earning of college credit in many cases if a score of 3 or higher is achieved on a 1-5 scale.  The curriculum has an international standard and is recognized worldwide by colleges and universities as high level, relevant, and rigorous. 
Our high schools currently offer 17 AP courses to our students.  In the last six years participation rates in these courses and on the AP assessments have increased dramatically, as has the achievement of our students.  Take a look at the numbers below:
  • OCS increased the number of AP test takers from 519 in 2007 to 1181 in 2012
  • OCS increased the number of AP test takers from 1005 in 2011 to 1181 in 2012
  • OCS increased the percentage of students scoring 3 or higher on AP exams from 28.8% in 2007 to 47.8% in 2012 – a 19% increase in achievement
  • NOHS increased the percentage of students scoring a 3 or higher from 46.4% in 2011 to 49.6% in 2012
  •  OCHS increased the percentage of students scoring a 3 or higher from 45.3% in 2011 to 45.9% in 2012
The achievement and participation numbers in 2012 reflect the highest levels in our school system’s history.
Where do we go from here?  In my opinion the sky is the limit.  With outstanding students, highly qualified and caring teachers, and a supportive community, the possibilities for achievement are endless.  We must, however, continue to reflect on our current practices to get better.  Students handle AP course work by having the proper foundational classes as younger students.  They take rigorous courses in middle school and high school that prepare them for and allow access in their schedule to these college level classes.  Our middle schools have recently begun offering high school-level courses to 8th grade students to lay this ground work. 

How do you feel about increasing these offerings?  Are you in favor of expanding academic rigor at the middle school level to allow greater access to college-level course work while in high school?  Let me know your thoughts at jbranch@oconeeschools.org.

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