Grant enables DHS to expand AP offerings

Demopolis High School’s Advanced Placement offerings received a considerable boost last week as the school learned it had been selected to join the SDE/A+ College Ready Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program (APTIP) beginning this summer.

“Instead of just covering two disciplines, we’re now encompassing all four,” Demopolis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Al Griffin said. “And with the new one diploma option and Plan 2020, we’re sort of reconstructing our avenues for diplomas. We’re going to focus hard on the AP and the dual routes and encouraging students to participate in this.”

The program, which is a partnership of the State Department of Education Division of Teacher and Learning and A+ College Ready, will provide DHS with Advanced Placement training for up to seven pre-AP teachers and allow the school to expand its AP offerings to include all four academic disciplines.

“It will at least triple our AP program. It’s going to force our students who are capable, especially students who are maybe underserved who are capable of doing more, into doing more. They’re going to be offered the chance of taking an AP class even if they’re on a regular diploma track,” Leslie Gibbs, DHS AP English teacher, said. “There will be some AP classes that they can take even if they just want to take one. It’s going to expose a much larger part of the population of the school to the AP program.”

The grant, which is good for three years, could be worth up to a total of $255,000 according to Mary Boehm of the A+ College Ready grant staff.

“During the application and site visit process, your school demonstrated the will and commitment to aggressively grow your AP math, science & English course enrollments,” Boehm wrote of the DHS staff as she informed DHS principal Leon Clark of the school’s acceptance into the program. “Your leadership and your teachers’ willingness to attend training and receive support make us believe that your school can achieve success in Advanced Placement resulting in many more students having exposure to rigorous Pre AP and AP classes and an increase in the number of qualifying scores earned by students at your school.”

The school’s ability to compete for a spot in the program and the accompanying grant has changed drastically over the last three years since it initially applied to APTIP.

“We did not feel at that point that we were in the position to change our curriculum as profoundly as we’re going to have to in order to meet their requirements,” Gibbs said. “At this point with the state moving to a one diploma option, we’re going to have to change our offerings anyway. I think our teachers are in a better mindset at this point to do what it takes.”

The grant will allow DHS to add a math Advanced Placement course as well as two to three science courses. But its greatest impact may come in what it will do to develop a pre-AP program.

“It’s going to enable us to provide a program of what we call pre-AP classes that will give kids the opportunity to experience some of the AP strategies which will get them ready for the AP classes that they will wind up starting in the 10th grade,” Clark explained.

The APTIP program ail allow Demopolis City Schools to send seven pre-AP teachers and any AP teachers to Laying the Foundation training. That training will lead to the creation of pre-AP courses that will serve to expose a greater number of students to Advanced Placement learning at an earlier age.

“It’s going to provide lots of training for our faculty in the middle school and the high school level because it provide pre-AP training so we can get the kids into those good skills and habits from the middle school years,” Gibbs said. “Because we will be given so much training and the kids will be given so much support, we should see the numbers just skyrocket. The ability for these kids to really find out if they are cut out for college is one of the biggest advantages.”

Additional benefits of the program include the effective streamlining of course offerings as the high school will go from the four junior English courses it currently makes available to two: basic and Advanced Placement.

The grant also provides incentives to students who pass Advanced Placement tests as well as to teachers who maintain high percentages of students passing the AP exams.

A residual benefit of the program may be the role it plays in helping to improve the school’s average ACT scores as a greater number of students will be exposed to Advanced Placement courses which teach information similar to that which is on the standardized test.

“All testing throughout the school system is going to be tied to ACT from middle school up because the state is in the process of changing some of the testing. It’s going to give all of our students exposure to the type information that’s on the ACT test. In essence, we’re looking to improve that our ACT scores are going to go up because we’re going to have a lot more students participating in this AP program,” Clark said. “It’s going to be a lot better. Over the years with the graduation exam, it measures one thing. Then you always had the ACT out there that did something else. You had a hodgepodge of different testing that was not really focused on one direction. Now the focus of it is all in one direction because it is all centered around the ACT. It is all centered about getting kids ready for college, getting them ready for careers and those type things.”