AP test scores vary widely
Nine of 16 area high schools, including Janesville, failed to meet the Advanced Placement statewide average for scores qualifying students to receive college credit.
The College Board that oversees the Advanced Placement program requires a score of 3 on a 5-point scale to be eligible for college credit. A score of 5 demonstrates a student is well qualified to receive college credit, while a score of 1 means the student will get no recommendation for college credit.
For the 2010-11 school year, the statewide average for the percentage of tests receiving a 3 or higher was 68 percent. The Clinton, Lake Geneva Badger, East Troy, Evansville, Brodhead, Beloit and Milton districts exceeded the statewide average. Scoring below the statewide average were Big Foot, Williams Bay, Elkhorn, Delavan-Darien, Janesville, Whitewater, Edgerton, Beloit Turner and Parkview in Orfordville.
Clinton scored the highest among area schools. Thirty-one tests were taken, and 84 percent of those tests scored at 3 or above.
"The credit for student achievement starts with the great teaching staff we have here," said Randy Refsland, the Clinton superintendent. "A lot of the credit also goes to our students who excel in and out of the classroom."
Refsland's first year as superintendent was the 2010-11 school year. He credited his predecessor, Pam Kiefert, for implementing changes that resulted in improved student achievement.
"I can take very little credit for this," he said. "It's really the result of the hard work by Pam, the teaching staff and the students."
An accelerated leadership program also was a factor in Clinton's test scores, Refsland said. He pointed out the leadership development work of high school Principal Nicole Erickson.
"It's an overall effort," he said. "We are glad to see high scores, and that gives us more motivation to continue to work harder for student achievement."
Parkview School District in Orfordville was on the other end of the scale, with just 37 percent of tests scoring 3 or above. The low percentage was not lost on district Administrator Steven Lutzke.
"First of all, we look at test scores as a trend, not just a one-year snapshot," he said. "The year before, we did much better (57 percent), but we were still below the statewide average."
Lutzke said district staff members are constantly reviewing the curriculum and using the data obtained to modify educational practices.
"We not only look at the students taking AP courses in the classroom, but we have students in the Apex Learning program which also offers AP classes online with support from our staff teachers," Lutzke said. "We continue to look for ways to improve, and I can tell you that we are not comfortable with a 37 percent."
In Janesville, 547 AP tests were taken at Craig and Parker high schools, and 55 percent scored 3 or higher. Kim Ehrhardt, director of instructional services, acknowledged that both AP and ACT test scores in Janesville are below statewide averages.
"One factor is the number of students taking the test," Ehrhardt said. "The number of students enrolled in AP classes over the last 10 years has doubled, and, therefore, there are more students taking the test. That number has increased 6 percent per year on average."
The Janesville district is already addressing its test scores, Ehrhardt said. The effort started last year at Craig High School under the direction of Principal Alison Spiegel.
"We are focusing on equity and excellence scores," Spiegel said. "This gets us a better overall picture. AP scores often look just at the few upper level kids."
Spiegel said she is asking if Craig has enough students in the AP program, if they are taking the test and if they are passing.
"I believe we will see that the more kids we having taking AP classes we will see better scores," she said. "The challenge to teachers is to make sure that if a student takes the test, they will be at a level where they will do better in college regardless of the test score."