Warwick is in line with the state trend of improved results of students enrolled in Advance Placement (AP) according to information released last week by the Department of Education.
AP courses are administered by the non-profit College Board to high schools with curriculums based on how a college or university would present a class of similar topics. The courses are rigorous, and at the end of the class a student can decide if they wish to pay to take a test presented by the College Board. Student who pass are awarded the equivalent amount of college credit that would be earned from taking a single semester college course.
“We need to prepare our students for college and postsecondary education,” said Robert Littlefield, Director of Secondary Education in Warwick, “and there is no way that we’ve seen more tried and true than AP [courses].”
Littlefield points out that 362 tests were administered last year to a total of 319 students in Warwick public high schools, “and a total of 135 passed their exams” or about 37 percent of tests taken. This is well below the RIDE’s 53 percent statewide passing rate for all AP exams.
However, Littlefield pointed to an area of improvement in Warwick that far exceeds state statistics. “We’ve seen 527 students take AP courses this year…in part because we’ve added four new programs to make 19 courses students can take at the high schools.”
Littlefield attributes this increase of 65 percent, which is more than three times the statewide average of 20 percent increase in AP course participation, to the new policies on AP courses. “We’re now offering more programs to more students,” said Littlefield, “now, juniors and underclassmen can take some AP courses” and is having an impact.
However, the teachers union dispute has affected at least some AP students, according to Littlefield, with a “sick-out” at Pilgrim High School taking away a day of school that could easily set AP students back.
“The College Board makes these courses pack a lot of material in every class to prepare them for the test, so every day counts,” said Littlefield, “We can add a day at the end of the school year, but the College Board sets the test day ahead of time, and the make-up day would be well after it. It wouldn’t do [the students] any good.”
But Littlefield is far more positive about the increasing amount of students who are taking advantage of the AP programs at the high schools and helping to prepare the teachers, “We are paying for and sending teachers to the conferences and meetings to prepare for AP coursework because we want to make sure that our students are succeeding in these programs.”
“[Our] goal is to bring ourselves as close to the state and national levels as we can,” says Littlefield, “and we’re getting closer to that every year with more programs, more teachers, and more support.”