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AP tests give students leg up on college

by Linda Hiller, Staff Writer

The Advanced Placement program was one of the topics presented at the last meeting of the Douglas High School Parent Involvement Association.

School counselor, Sandra Bandy-Nunes explained the program to the two dozen parents in attendance. She also detailed them how AP classes differ from honors classes.

Advanced placement classes – which are nationally and internationally recognized by more than 2,900 colleges and universities that offer credit for classes in 32 subject areas – can potentially accelerate learning, reward achievement and enhance the high school experience, Bandy-Nunes said.

The reasons for students taking A.P. classes will vary, but one of the best benefits is the opportunity to see what a college level class might be like – to get a “leg up” on the college experience, she said.

Students are usually recommended by teachers for an A.P. class, and parent requests are also considered, Bandy-Nunes said. At DHS, there are AP classes offered in biology, calculus, computer science, English language, Spanish language, English literature, government and U.S. history. Chemistry was dropped this year because of low enrollment, but may be offered next year, she said.

n Have to get tested. To earn the college credit, AP students must take an optional standardized test. Typically, only about half the students will take the test and last year, 63 percent of tested DHS students passed. In May, 2001, 166 DHS students will be tested, she said.

“Remember, this is a marketed business, so keep that in mind,” Bandy-Nunes said. “While there is no school fee for taking the AP tests, there is a $77 exam fee for each test. Of course, there are fee reductions and waivers, but it’s still a business.”

Bandy-Nunes said students who want to attend colleges and universities with more stringent admissions policies may want to consider taking AP classes. While the grade for an AP class and a “regular” class are weighted the same, college admissions personnel do notice AP classes on a student’s transcript.

“These classes also prepare the student for the SAT and ACT (college prep) tests,” she said. “But the real purpose for taking AP classes should be for the chance to get a run at a college-level class – to see what it’s like, and the rigors they can expect in college.”

Laura Austin, who teaches AP Spanish at DHS, and who said she was attending the meeting as a parent and not a teacher, advised that students not decide lightly to enroll in AP classes.

“There’s more homework,” she said. “I usually give around one-and-a-half to two hours of homework per class (every other day), and so I think students should only enroll in AP classes if that subject is their passion.”

Honors classes are also accelerated, with a more individualized curriculum, sometimes including an AP teaching strategy, Bandy-Nunes said. But while honors classes may have greater demands and more challenging opportunities for students, they offer no college credit or advanced placement potential. DHS offers some honors classes separately, and some combined with AP classes.

Parents and students are welcome to come to the counseling office for more information. Call 782-5136.

The next DHS PIA meeting will be Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. in the school library/media center. Competencies and other subjects will be discussed. The public is welcome.