West Hartford public high school students continue to participate in and excel at advanced placement courses, according to school officials at the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday.
Indeed, 582 Conard students took 1,115 advanced placement exams, while 453 Hall students took 827 exams.
The average score at Conard was 3.15 out of 5, with 70 percent of the students achieving a 3 or higher.
The average score at Hall was 3.52 out of 5, with 79 percent of the students scoring at least a 3.
The advanced placement program provides rigorous coursework on par with college courses. Typically, a score of 3 or higher on an advanced placement exam provides some college credit for students when they graduate from high school.
Since 1996, the participation rate - students taking at least one AP course - has grown from 40 to 60 percent at Hall and from 30 to 80 percent at Conard, according to Chip Ward, the schools’ director of finance and planning.
But even as the participation rates have climbed, so have the test scores.
Ward noted that there were almost as many 5s (the highest score) scored on tests in 2013 as there were test takers 20 years ago.
There were also as many AP scholars (students who took at least 3 AP exams and scored 3 or higher on all of them) as there were those who took one AP exam 20 years ago, Ward said.
“We’ve been at this forefront for many years [with advanced placement course] and the kids continue to do well,” Ward said.
Much of that has to do with not only the encouragement that the schools give students to take AP courses, but also the support students receive in the form of the AP boot camp at Conard and a similar program at Hall.
School board Terry Schmitt said that he was initially concerned that the high schools were pushing advanced placement courses on students merely for the sake of taking advanced placement courses, rather than preparing the students for college.
But he said that he was heartened to see that the AP scores showed that students were doing well in those courses.
“To see both [high participation and high scores], as opposed to either/or is a heartening thing for me,” Schmitt said. “I worry that we pursue the award at the expense of student, but this is different from that in a good way.”
In addition to AP courses, the schools also offered UConn Early College Experience courses in which students could earn college credit.
School board member Mark Overmyer-Velazquez said that the numbers were fine, but the more important issue was what the overall benefits of AP and ECE courses are for students. For example, Overmyer-Velazquez said that he wanted to know if AP courses merely teach to a test, or if there were added benefits in taking the course.
Nancy DePalma, assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and development, said that the courses provide a high level of rigor as well as give students an opportunity to earn college credit at a time when the expenses of higher education are soaring. Student have the ability to enter college with a semester or two worth of credit.