By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
---- — CLINTON — Clinton High School and Prince of Peace have been recognized as two of the top 25 schools in Iowa for the number of students taking Advanced Placement exams.
Prince of Peace Catholic High School came in 23rd with an AP index of .86 while Clinton High School came in 24 with a .83 index. The only other area school to make the top 25 was Bettendorf, which came in at 18 with a .99 index.
The AP index was developed in 2005 by the University of Iowa's Belin-Blank Center to recognize the top 50 Iowa accredited public and nonpublic high schools for providing AP opportunities for high school students. In 2012, 211 Iowa High Schools offered AP exams.
The index is the ratio of AP exams taken by its students (any grade) divided by the number of its graduating seniors. The 2013 Iowa AP Index is based on May 2012 AP exams and May/June 2012 graduation data.
Iowa's AP Index was .49, meaning that one AP exam was taken for every 2.04 students. The number one school in Iowa was George Washington High School in Cedar Rapids, which had a 3.21 index and was the only school with an index above three.
Prince of Peace has been in the top 25 since 2010 and was highlighted this year as having the smallest graduating class to make the list with 22 students.
Prince of Peace Principal Nancy Peart said students who take the AP courses that her school offers — statistics, chemistry and calculus — are told they need to take the exam at the end of the course.
"We think if kids are going to go through all that hard work, they might as well see how they do," Peart said.
In 2012, Prince of Peace had 19 tests, which were taken by 13 students.
The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program allows students to pursue college-level studies and take college-level exams while in high school. The number of AP exams taken in Iowa has grown substantially since 2001 when 5,995 exams were given. Last year, Iowa schools administered 16,413 exams with 10,443 students taking at least one exam.
Depending on the exam score, students may be able to receive college credit for the course. Regardless of test scores, Peart said, AP classes prime students for college. In an annual survey, 100 percent of Prince of Peace graduates say they intend to pursue some post-secondary learning or training.
"It's a great way to prepare kids for college level learning," Peart said. "This way, they see, 'yes, I could go to college and be competitive on that level.'"
The Iowa AP Index has increased every year since it was first measured in 2005. Clinton High School made its debut on the list in 2009 at 39. This is the first time the schools has been in the top 25 and school officials believe the success comes from a combination of increasing AP courses, allowing all students an opportunity to take them and pushing for students to take the exam.
"Any kid that wants to take AP, can. Any kid that wants to take honors, can. We don't promise them an 'A.' They're going to work, but we believe that all kids should have the opportunity for rigorous curriculum," CHS Principal Karinne Tharaldson Jones said.
Clinton offers AP courses in world history, language and composition, literature and composition, statistics, calculus, government, environmental science, psychology, economics, music theory and studio art as well as a rotating biology course and an online chemistry course. Students can start taking select AP courses in their sophomore year, with most available in the junior and senior years.
In 2012, 197 CHS students took AP courses and 208 tests were administered. On average, an AP student will take three to four exams in their time at CHS, according to Sue Schrader, department chairwoman of counseling at CHS.
The school has been noticeably affected since allowing more students into the advanced programs. With the increase in AP courses came a similar bump in students qualifying for the 3.0 club.
The push for student pursuit of more difficult coursework has brought CHS to a point where nearly half of its students are in an honors or AP course, which school administrators hope will aid them in their journey beyond high school.
"If you are going to take some post-secondary opportunity, be it at Clinton Community College, a university or even the world of work, you need to do something. You need to be in a rigorous track," Tharaldson Jones said.
Schrader pointed to evidence that suggests a student's success could be related to taking an AP exam.
"Research shows, from the College Board, that you're 50 percent or more likely to go to college and be successful in that period of time and get your degree. It's because you've had that experience and had that academic trauma while you're here with us so you kind of know how to handle it and can adjust. It gives them some perseverance," she said.
The AP index was developed in 2005 by the University of Iowa's Belin-Blank Center to recognize the top 50 Iowa accredited public and nonpublic high schools for providing AP opportunities for high school students.