By Katie Dahlstrom
CLINTON — Anna-Marie Black and Malika Usmanova both have doctorates in their sites. But the Clinton High School juniors know they won't get there by taking it easy, prompting them to take advantage of the rigorous courses their school offers.
Black has an honors course and two Advanced Placement classes on her roster this year. Usmanova has five AP courses.
"They're a handful," Usmanova said. "I would definitely recommend taking them, but be prepared to work."
They aren't the only ones using their time in high school to prepare for college.
Clinton High School students are flocking to Advanced Placement and other college level courses, some of which have more than doubled in size recent years.
"Parents ask me if their child is ready and I tell them everyone is ready; do it; take it; try it," CHS Principal Karinne Tharaldson Jones said.
Clinton High offers honors, Advanced Placement, concurrent and post-secondary education courses that give students a taste of how they will learn once they leave high school.
Advanced Placement courses allow students to learn college-level curriculum. At the end of the course, students can take an exam that could earn them college credit depending on their score, which ranges from one to five.
Clinton offers 12 out of 34 AP courses: biology, environmental science, calculus, statistics, studio art, music theory, American government, economics, psychology, world history, language and literature.
In 2009, a group of 156 students took AP courses. That number has more than doubled this year, with 359 students enrolled.
"They're more accelerated, so I don't get bored," Black said. "They also teach you to study better and I know managing your time is really important in college."
Taking the course isn't the stopping point. Students also are encouraged to take the exam so they can potentially earn college credit for their work.
This year the school earned a spot on the Iowa AP Index, which ranks the 50 schools across the state with the highest number of kids taking AP exams. CHS was 24, the highest it has ever been on the list.
Clinton High teachers and administrators aim to have 60 percent of students taking AP exams score a three or above this year.
"We're very very close, right now we have a 54 percent," Tharaldson Jones said.
Usmanova plans to take the tests in her AP courses to find out how her time in the classes will impact her time in college. Even if her scores don't translate to college credit, the classes have left their mark.
"I enjoy the challenge. Things seem to move faster and the classes are more interesting," she said. "I feel like I am way more prepared for college."
Clinton High also allows students to take concurrent courses where students can attend class at CHS while earning credit from Clinton Community College.
Concurrent courses saw even more growth in the past four years, going from 240 students in the 2009-2010 school year to 686 this year.
The number of students enrolling in post-secondary education courses, which entail students enrolling part-time at Clinton Community College, have decreased. Tharaldson Jones credited this reduction to the number of students who are instead choosing AP and concurrent courses.
It's not just the students that are being pushed to achieve more. The teachers also are being held responsible for their students' scores, Tharaldson Jones said.
Administration tracks what AP test scores students are earning in each course, giving them insight into how the teacher is performing.
All of the programs, goals and measures has led to advanced rigor at the high school, Tharaldson Jones said.
"All kids are encouraged to take a course," she said. "We don't guarantee them an 'A' or even a 'B,' but I want all of them to at least try it."