Gaithersburg, Quince Orchard High Schools Make Strides In AP Testing

The Gaithersburg area high schools were among the best in the county for performance and participation increases in Advanced Placement testing.

Two Gaithersburg area high schools showed great improvement in Advanced Placement testing scores and participation, according to a report released Wednesday by Montgomery County Public Schools.

Of the 18 county schools that saw an increase in the percentage of graduates scoring a 3 or higher (passing) on at least one AP exam from 2011 to 2012, Quince Orchard and Gaithersburg high schools were among the top five in the county.

Quince Orchard's 12.4 percent increase was the largest in MCPS, with Gaithersburg's 7.1 percent ranking fifth.

"I am very proud of the work of our students and staff and very pleased to see that work has had some very positive outcomes," Quince Orchard principal Carole Working told Patch in an email. "Over the past few years, our students have embraced AP classes as a way to challenge themselves intellectually and to better prepare themselves for success at the collegiate level."

Quince Orchard also ranked third in MCPS with a 7 percent increase of graduates taking at least one AP exam.

"A few years ago, we encouraged anyone at Quince Orchard who considered himself or herself to be college bound to attempt an Advanced Placement or college level course before graduation... As students began to challenge themselves to meet these expectations, we as a staff at Quince Orchard realized that we were no longer 'pushing' students to attempt an AP experience. Students were encouraging each other into Advanced Placement courses," Working said.

Gaithersburg High School — joined by Magruder, Rockville and Wheaton — saw an increase in both the AP exam participation and performance of African American and Hispanic students, according to MCPS.

"We like what we see, but we have a lot of room to grow," Gaithersburg principal Christine Handy-Collins said.

"It really starts very early in helping our students see they have a dream of going to college and they [must] plan for it," Handy-Collins said. "We make sure they understand they need to take a rigorous course schedule in high school so they can be more prepared."

According to a MCPS's statement, 52.3 percent of the county's public school students graduating from high school in 2012 earned a college-ready score (a score of 3 or higher) on at least one AP exam, "far outperforming their peers across the state and nation." That's an increase of nearly 3 percentage points from 2011.

Nationally, only 19.5 percent of graduating seniors last year earned at least one college-ready AP score. Across the state, 29.6 percent of graduating seniors in 2012 earned at least one college-ready AP score. No state had a higher percentage of students earning at least one AP score of 3 or higher, the College Board’s AP Report to the Nation reported on Feb. 20.

"MCPS students continue to perform extremely well on Advanced Placement exams, demonstrating their desire to be challenged and their readiness for college-level work," Montgomery County Board of Education President Christopher S. Barclay said in a statement.

"We should celebrate these tremendous results, while strengthening our commitment to making sure all students have access to rigorous classes and are well-prepared for success."

More than two-thirds of 2012 MCPS graduates (67.3 percent—a district record) took at least one AP exam in high school. Statewide, that percentage was 48.2 percent, while nationwide it was 32.4 percent.

"I’m proud of the continued growth we are seeing in AP access and success for all students," Superintendent Joshua P. Starr said. "I am grateful for the hard work that our students and staff have put in to make MCPS a national leader in this and so many other areas."

Students from all racial and ethnic subgroups in the the county's class of 2012 showed improvement in AP performance.

"The percentage of Hispanic students earning a college-ready score on at least one AP exam was 38.1 percent, up nearly 1 percentage point from 2011. For African American MCPS graduates, the percentage was 23.3 percent, up 1 percentage point from 2011," according to the county schools' statement.

The high schools with the greatest percentage of 2012 graduates earning a score of 3 or higher on at least one exam were Winston Churchill (82 percent), Thomas S. Wootton (81.5 percent), Walt Whitman (80.8 percent), Poolesville (78 percent) and Walter Johnson (71.7 percent), the statement added.

Read more about the county school system's AP statistics in the MCPS Report on AP Participation and Performance. Read more about Advanced Placement exam statistics in the College Board's AP Report to the Nation.

How important do you think AP classes and exams are to a high school student's education?

Scott Murphy February 22, 2013 at 08:54 PM
When reporting AP participation and performance data, it is important to note that eight MCPS high schools are IB World Schools, like Watkins Mill High School in Gaithersburg. In the MCPS Seven Keys to College Readiness, Key 6 includes: “Score 3 on an Advanced Placement (AP) exam or 4 on an International Baccalaureate (IB) exam,” as both are college level exams. At Watkins Mill High School, the cornerstone of college-level work is the IB program, which has shown increases in both participation and performance over the past three years, as noted in the MCPS report available here: http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/ It is important to consider student performance in IB when comparing AP performance across schools.
Greg Cohen February 22, 2013 at 09:32 PM
Thanks for the clarification, Scott!


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