Support AP & Dual Enrollment

Published 4:12 pm Thursday, February 28, 2013

Editor, The Herald:

An Open Letter to the County Board of Supervisors, the Prince Edward County School Board, Prince Edward County Administration, and community members.

As county taxpayers and parents of Prince Edward County school children, we would like to acknowledge and thank this community for providing so many rich and challenging opportunities for our children who have been in the Prince Edward County Schools. We were particularly pleased that in 2008, the High School was awarded the Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program (APTIP) grant implemented through the Virginia Advanced Studies Strategy Organization. Grant funding for the AP program will cease at the end of this school year. We wish to express our desire for the Prince Edward County Public High School to continue to offer the Advanced Placement (AP) program. We ask the Prince Edward School Board and High School to provide long-term monetary and programmatic support and promote the AP program absent grant funding. We hope that community members voice their support for this program as well and continue to encourage their children to enroll in AP courses.

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We wish to be clear that by voicing our support for the AP program that we support dual enrollment (DE) courses at the public high school as well. Rural school systems like ours have made important partnerships with the Virginia Community College system to help our students prepare for college and save money by accruing college credits during high school. Most Virginia publicly funded institutions, and other states, will usually accept DE credits taught at the high school if the student makes a “C” or above. However, it is important to understand that there is no nationally recognized standard for the assessment of the quality of DE courses. For this reason many public institutions of higher learning often only accept dual enrollment credits as electives or, in the case of many private institutions, will not accept them at all.

Advanced Placement (AP) courses, which make up just under half of the enrollment of students taking college course work at the high school level this year, are different from DE courses and are worth preserving along side of DE options for students. AP classes and exams are administered by the College Board (in Princeton, NJ) and are taught on high school campuses by high school faculty in various disciplines that “mirror” a college course. The AP teacher needs to be certified to teach these courses, and the exams are nationally standardized (on a scale of 1 to 5) to show the level of student competency in a field of study.

There are several reasons that AP courses should be funded at the High School level.

1. Almost all institutions of higher learning in the United States accept AP exams for credit, although they may vary on the score necessary to receive credit. Students typically are required to make a 3 or above in order for a college to grant course credit.

2. Because AP exams are nationally standardized it is easy to maintain educational acountability and provide outcomes assessment to evaluate what the County is financially supporting.

3. AP is a relatively low cost program. Teachers teach AP courses as part of their regular teaching load, and the investment in professional development so teachers can effectively teach highly motivated students is not substantial over the long run. The cost of the exam is $83 per student, eight dollars of which goes to the school for administrative overhead. The College Board provides discounts for low-income families. Further, the PEC school administration could and should also take full advantage of the $188,905 awarded to the Virginia Department of Education from a U.S. Department of Education national grant cover Fees charged to low-income students for taking AP tests.

4. AP courses provide county students the type of classes that will allow them to compete on a national, not just regional, collegiate level. The College Board has done research that shows that AP students are more likely to graduate from college in four years (students who take longer to graduate at public colleges and universities can spend up to $19,000 for each additional year). Furthermore, participation in AP courses can also help students qualify for scholarships (31 percent of colleges and universities look at AP experience when determining scholarships). Research has also shown that admissions offices at institutions of higher learning tend to look more favorably on students high school students who took AP courses because of their documented rigor, whether they took the exam or not.

Both AP and DE are critical to the success of our high school students at Prince Edward County High School. Neither program is free. Currently the county invests money to the cover the costs of dual enrollment programs. We wish to argue that AP also is well worth the small investment it will take to offer the very best opportunities to our future generations in the county. We believe that providing a full array of educational opportunities, including AP, would reflect this community's desire for our children to have limitless options after graduation as stated in Prince Edward County School's mission: “to meet the intellectual, personal, social and vocational needs of all students.”

Elizabeth Kocevar-Weidinger

J. Michael Utzinger

Lonnie Calhoun

Marian Hahesy-Calhoun