Commonwealth Journal

November 28, 2012

County schools make Honor Roll

by Chris Harris
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

The Pulaski County School System has received a prestigious honor reflecting the success of its students in the classroom — and beyond.
The College Board, a national non-profit organization that promotes education along with providing financial support and scholarships, has named Pulaski Schools to its third-annual AP District Honor Roll.
The “Honor Roll” recognizes success in Advanced Placement (AP) programs — specifically, increasing access to AP coursework while increasing the percentage of students earning qualifying scores (on a scale of 1-5, that would be 3,4, or 5) on the corresponding exams.
The College Board is known for developing the college entrance exam known as the SAT, perhaps the most commonly known test of its kind among American students. Its stamp of approval is considered to be of premium value in the education arena, and isn’t handed out to just anyone.
“This is a very difficult recognition to obtain,” said Angela Murphy, Secondary Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction for the county school district. “The College Board is meticulous in detail, there are no gray areas — you either get it or you don’t.”
In October, Pulaski County School received a healthy chunk of change for doing well in AP courses thanks to the AdvanceKentucky program, earning almost $30,000 as a result of initiatives designed to reward students for qualifying scores on AP exams.
So things had been going well for Pulaski in terms of their drive to make students “college and career ready,” as their maxim goes — but even Murphy didn’t know exactly how well, it would seem.
“I had no idea we were going to get this,” said Murphy. “I knew our schools were moving up, that we had improved as a district, but I hadn’t considered this from the College Board.”
Added Superintendent Steve Butcher, “Our initiative in encouraging our high schools to offer more rigorous opportunities through AP classes is paying huge dividends for our students. The Advance Kentucky grant gave us a much needed boost to make this a reality.”
Pulaski was one of only 539 school districts from the U.S. and Canada combined to receive a spot on the “Honor Roll,” and one of 10 from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, five of which are also in the AdvanceKentucky program (also including Fayette, Bourbon, Clinton, and Washington County Schools).
More than 90 percent of colleges and universities across the U.S. offer college credit, advanced placement or both for a score of 3 or higher on an AP exam — which can potentially save students and their families thousands of dollars in college tuition.
In 2012, approximately 26,523 Kentucky public school students took more than 43,000 AP exams. More than 20,000 of those exams were scored at 3, 4 or 5.
Inclusion on the 3rd Annual AP District Honor Roll is based on the examination of three years of AP data, from 2010 to 2012, for the following criteria:
Districts must:
• increase participation/access to AP by at least 4 percent in large districts, at least 6 percent in medium districts and at least 11 percent in small districts
• ensure that the percentage of African American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native students taking AP Exams did not decrease by more than 5 percent for large and medium districts or by more than 10 percent for small districts
• improve performance levels when comparing the percentage of students in 2012 scoring a 3 or higher to those in 2010, unless the district has already attained a performance level in which more than 70 percent of the AP students are scoring a 3 or higher
Achieving both the goals of increased access to coursework and improved qualifying scores is the ideal scenario for a district’s AP program because it indicates that the district is successfully identifying motivated, academically prepared students who are likely to benefit most from challenging AP course work.
The main reward Pulaski County Schools get from this is recognition for being among North America’s elite in preparing students for what they’ll see at the next level, which has become a focus for Pulaski Schools and those across Kentucky thanks to a recent revamping of student assessment paradigm.
“I think it sends a message to our community and our parents that we’re offering the rigorous coursework students need to be successful in college,” said Murphy. “That’s our goal: to deliver students to the community that are ready for the coursework when they get there. It’s a wonderful affirmation of the hard work this district has done (over the last three years of a focus on college and career readiness).
 “To me, that’s better than any reward,” she added, “that you’re insuring students can be successful after high school.”