Area students keep pace with state AP scores

Posted: February 21, 2014

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Area students’ success on Advanced Placement exams in the 2012-13 school year mirrored that of the state, which was among the nation’s elite.

Earlier this month, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that Virginia had the nation’s third-highest percentage of public high school seniors earning a grade of 3 or higher on at least one Advanced Placement (AP) exam — up from fifth best in 2011-12.

AP tests are graded on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. A 3 is a qualifying score and can earn a student college credit. A student usually takes an AP test after taking a course in that subject.

In Winchester, 330 students took 754 AP tests — a 15 percent increase in the number of exams taken and an 8 percent increase in the number of test takers over the previous year.

Approximately 56 percent, or 419 tests, were a 3 or higher. Last year, the percentage was 61 percent.

“When you have kids getting a 3 or higher, the instruction is good and kids are doing well,” said George Craig, coordinator of curriculum and instruction. “Anytime you get above 50 percent, you’ve done well.”

Handley High School had 1,185 students as of October.

In Frederick County, there are more than 3,900 high school students. Of these, 169 took 245 AP exams. This was an 18 percent decrease in the number of exams taken and a 2 percent decrease in test takers when compared with 2011-12.

The Frederick County students received a score of 3 or better on 69 percent (or 169 tests) — 5 percent less than the percentage the previous year.

“That’s good,” Peter Vernimb, assistant superintendent for instruction, said of the test results.

Vernimb said that many students are opting to take dual-enrollment courses instead of AP courses, although many AP courses are dual enrolled. Students are choosing this track because dual enrollment provides guaranteed college credit if students earn a C or better, whereas taking an AP test does not guarantee credit.

“If you take an AP test, you need at least a three [for college credit], but not all schools accept a three,” Vernimb said. “It’s a gamble.”

Through dual enrollment, students can earn up to two years of college credit while still in high school at a cheaper rate than if they took the same class in college.

There were 445 students in Frederick County who were dual enrolled in one or more classes and 554 in Winchester.

In Clarke County, 25 students took a total of 37 AP tests, 19 of which were 3 or higher. Clarke County High School has 727 students.

Clarke’s numbers are lower because the division tends to focus on the International Baccalaureate — a two-year advanced educational program for students ages 16 to 19 that is recognized by universities worldwide.

Clarke County High School had 85 students taking 260 IB assessments in May 2013, and 264 students at the school were enrolled in one or more IB classes during the 2012-13 school year.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com