More high school graduates in Bulloch County, the state and nation are taking Advanced Placement exams and scoring high enough to earn college credit, according to results released recently.
“These scores show that more and more Georgia students are leaving our schools ready for college and careers,” State School Superintendent John Barge said in a news release. “It’s critical that we continue to encourage students to take Advanced Placement classes so that they not only get the rigorous academic training they need to be successful, but they can also save some money on college tuition.”
However, Bulloch County shows a bit more of a mixed trend for the past five graduating classes. While the number of students taking AP exams in various subjects has steadily increased across Georgia and the nation, Bulloch County showed an increase from the graduating class of 2011 to 2012, but still has not reached the number of 2008 graduates who took the test.
And even with the smaller number of test takers – 252 in 2008 compared to 192 in 2012 – the district’s percentage of students scoring 3 or higher on the exams’ 5-point scale has dropped, from 52.4 percent among 2008 graduates to 49.5 percent for the class of 2012.
The College Board, which owns the AP program, considers a score of 3 or higher to indicate the test taker can succeed in college, and many colleges and universities accept scores at this level as course credit.
Also, in exams such as the AP, SAT and ACT, the more students take the test, generally the lower the pass rate, which is why Bulloch County’s results are somewhat surprising.
Marty Waters, the principal of Statesboro High School, said comparing one group of students with another is inaccurate and “literally like comparing apples to oranges.”
“We usually compare our annual scores to the state and national averages,” he said.
Using that benchmark, Bulloch County public school students have fluctuated while during the past five graduating classes.
In 2009, 64.3 percent of Bulloch County public school graduates scored 3 or higher, which was higher than both Georgia (54.2 percent) and the nation (61.1 percent). But in 2010, the reverse happened: Bulloch County graduates from that year had only a 38.9 percent rate of scoring 3 or higher, far lower than Georgia (52.6 percent) and the nation (60.2 percent).
Waters explained that some of these sharp changes might have been caused by major changes in Statesboro High School’s AP course offerings. More than half of the district’s AP students are at Statesboro High.
During the past three years, Statesboro High has lost three AP courses (physics, psychology and biology), added AP chemistry, had a new AP U.S. history teacher in 2009-10 and lost a “highly effective” AP calculus teacher to promotion to administration, Waters said.
Bulloch County encourages as many students as possible to take AP courses and exams.
“We believe the ‘experience’ of AP is worth it, even if a student makes a 1 on the test,” Waters said. “However, a student's hard work, persistence and intelligence paired with a competent, dedicated teacher increase the probability of a 3 or higher on the test. The course is the cake; the score of 3, 4, or 5 becomes the icing with sprinkles.”
As would be expected, Bulloch Academy, a private school, has higher rates of students scoring 3 or higher: 78.6 percent in the class of 2008, and 73.5 percent for 2012 graduates. The number of students who take AP courses at BA has risen significantly but is still small: 28 graduates in the 2008 class took the tests, while 49 took them in the 2012 class.
Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.