Students excelling in AP exams

Posted on: Dec 22, 2017

Delano students have once again significantly exceeded the test scores of their peers around the nation, and their performance has earned Delano Public Schools a place among just seven Minnesota school districts to be named to the AP Honor Roll.
This is the third consecutive year that Delano has been so honored, and the eighth year that the AP Honor Roll has been released by The College Board. In all, the most recent honor roll includes 447 school districts in the U.S. and Canada.
The other Minnesota districts on the honor roll include Alexandria, Becker, Princeton, St. Michael-Albertville, Waconia and Wayzata.
Delano High School Principal Steve Heil said many local students desire college-level material, and efforts have been made to increase AP and College in the Schools offerings in recent years. Aside from earning college credit without college expense, Heil said one of the major benefits is that high school teachers are often able to be more responsive to students’ needs and provide more direct help than a college professor.
“We try to get every kid possible in AP courses, and the kids flourish,” said Heil. “Part of that is our kids have good study habits. Part of it is the amount of work the AP teachers put into it. And another part of it that people tend to forget is every year prior to that kid taking the AP test, the other teachers and parents are helping them learn good study habits, teaching the material and reinforcing the material. So all around it just shows how good of a community and a school system we can be.”
Strong Delano scores
In the spring of 2017 Delano students took advanced tests in four classes: AP Biology, AP Human Geography, AP U.S. Government and Politics, and AP History. Students received scores between 1 and 5, with those earning scores of 3 or higher becoming eligible to receive college credit.
In Jessica Bahe’s AP Biology class, 36 Delano students took the test and 31 of them scored a 3 or above for an 86-percent passing rate. The national average was 64.1 percent.
In Dan Paulson’s AP Human Geography class, 34 students took the test and 24 were eligible for college credit, a 71-percent passing rate compared to 49 percent nationally. Delano students also had five top scores of 5.
In Lindsay Wallace’s AP History class, 33 Delano students took the test and 27 were eligible for college credit for an 81.8 percent passing rate, compared to 50.8 percent nationally. Four Delano students received a top score of 5.
Ninth-graders up to the task
Results from Nathan Peterson's AP U.S. Government and Politics class were notable for an additional reason. Heil explained that most schools have advanced juniors or seniors take the AP test for that subject, while Delano has ninth-graders take the test in order to coincide with the school’s civics curriculum.
“We thought it was better to challenge them from the start and really get them going,” said Heil. “If that’s their pathway and they want to be in those advanced classes, then why wait? Why shouldn’t we challenge them right away and give them four years of great opportunities rather than two or three?”
That approach paid off. Out of 32 Delano freshmen who took the test, 24 were eligible for college credit and nine earned top scores. They had a 75-percent passing rate, compared to 49.3 percent nationally.
“Delano kids always rise to the occasion,” Heil told the school board during its November meeting. “Whether we look at the ACT or the AP, they work hard. And our staff works extremely hard, too, to help the kids prepare for that. To take AP U.S. Government and Politics in ninth grade, they have to be reading at a high level, they have to be writing at a high level, they have to be understanding and reading charts and graphs at a high level. So when you see these scores, it shows you what all of our teachers are doing.”
While teachers are an integral part of the district’s success, Heil said the AP Honor Roll recognition is ultimately a reflection on the students.
“Not to say that the end all is the test score, but I think it really shows how hard the kids work here in Delano,” he said. “They work really hard, and this is their reward.”
AP Honor Roll
To be included on the AP Honor Roll, districts must have increased the number of students participating in Advanced Placement courses while also increasing or maintaining the percentage of students earning AP exam scores of 3 or higher (out of 5) since 2015.
According to The College Board, reaching these goals shows that a district is successfully identifying motivated, academically prepared students who are ready for AP.
“Congratulations to all the educators and administrators in this district who have worked to clear a path for more students of all backgrounds to participate and succeed in AP,” said Trevor Packer, head of AP and Instruction. “These educators and administrators are fostering a culture in their schools and classrooms that allows students to face new challenges and build the confidence to succeed.”