The Monroe County School District on Monday released its Advanced Placement (A.P.) and American College Testing (ACT) scores, and they are a mixed bag of results.
The A.P. scores reflect greater participation in the program, but fewer success stories to brag about, while the ACT results show higher scores from a smaller number of students, most of whom are college bound.
The A.P. program immerses high school students in college-level standard coursework, and those achieving a score of three or higher out of a five-point scale receive college credit for the courses, though some higher level colleges may require a higher grade than a three to award credits.
Monroe District high schools increased their A.P. participation levels during the 2013-14 school year, to a total of 740 students, a 13 percent increase from the 2012-13 year and a 43 percent increase from 2009-10.
Accordingly, more tests were administered at 1,377. That's an increase of 17 percent from 2012-13, and 48 percent from 2009-10.
On the downside, only 41 percent of this year's student participants received a three or higher, and thus the college credits they sought. That number is also a setback from the previous year, when 44 percent received a three and their college credits.
It is, however, an increase of eight percent from 2012-13 and 27 percent from 2009-10.
On Monday, Superintendent of Schools Mark Porter reflected on the grades.
"I've always got a concern with what we call the hurried child," Porter said. "On the one hand, we're trying to push them through social and academic challenges at a faster rate than in the past. But on the other hand challenging students with a more rigorous curriculum can be a good thing, regardless of whether they get the credits. It gives them an insight into what's going to be expected of them at the college level, and there's still a great deal of learning taking place.
"Of course, we want both increased participation and success, but we've opened up the A.P. courses to students from a wider range of academic backgrounds than we once did, and as a result the percentages of those succeeding in getting a three or higher is going to go down somewhat," Porter said. "I still think it's a valuable experience for the students."
Dave Murphy, Porter's newly hired director of Assessment and Accountability, agreed.
"You see sort of a similar trend in all the high schools in that we have increased access to A.P. programs," Murphy said. "It's exciting for us to see the growth of participation rates in just five years. We've been able to offer A.P. to a wider range of students, and you can see that reflected in the somewhat lower grades.
The ACT scores are a somewhat different story.
The ACT includes curriculum-based tests designed to measure the postsecondary readiness abilities of high schoolers. Some 311 students were tested in 2013-14.
These students scored above the state average in all five tested areas, including English, math, reading, science and a composite score.
They also showed an increase in performance in all areas as compared to 2012-13 results. The ACT has also established a college readiness benchmark score for specific college courses.
"It's true that the ACT involves a lower number of kids," Murphy said. "It's an alternative to FCAT and SAT tests that some college-bound kids take to bolster their resumes, and can also serve as a high school graduation score for kids that aren't going to go to college."