Armstrong High School Advanced Placement program sees increase in test scores, participation

Armstrong High School Advanced Placement program sees increase in test scores, participation
Posted on 08/04/2017

Robbinsdale Area Schools is pleased to report both test scores and participation numbers have increased in the Advanced Placement (AP) program at Armstrong High School.

Armstrong, which moved up one position to rank 10th in the state on the 2017 Washington Post’s “Most Challenging High Schools” list, had 166 AP Scholars in 2015, each with an average test score of 3.60 (out of 5). This year, the school noted an increased number (188) of AP Scholars, with an average test score of 3.63. Of those students, 59 were designated as “AP Scholar with Distinction,” receiving an average score of at least 3.5 on all AP exams taken. Eight were named “National AP Scholar,” meaning they received an average score of at least 4 on all AP exams taken, as well as scores of 4 or higher on eight or more of these exams total.

“We saw a significant increase in our AP test passing rate this year,” said Armstrong High School Principal David Dahl. “I would attribute this increase to the fine work of our AP teachers and the fact that they are all veteran staff members who are highly trained and are very disciplined in their teaching of AP courses. We love to see more students earning college credit through our AP program and we now have significant numbers of students in all grades earning college credit through our AP program.”

The biggest increase in participation came at the ninth-grade level, which Dahl partially credited to offering AP Environmental Science to ninth-graders. He reported numbers at 10th-grade have remained steady, with AP Biology and AP U.S. History being the main courses taken by those students. Dahl was also enthusiastic about sharing Juniors and Seniors are able to take a variety of AP courses at Armstrong High School.

“We wanted more opportunities for ninth-graders especially,” Dahl said. “We’ve had the  AVID program for over 10 years, which has the purpose of getting under-represented students to engage in rigorous curriculum like AP courses. Before they graduate, they are taking at least one AP class. Eventually, we’d like to see all of our students taking at least one AP class before they graduate.”

Research by the Education Trust suggests being successful in an AP class in high school is a good indicator a student can handle the rigors of college-level coursework. Dahl suggests, “Even if a student is thinking college might not be what they want to pursue, taking AP courses can help instill valuable career lessons through teamwork and persistence.”

“Very few students who go on a career path stop studying,” Dahl said. “It’s important for students to have a background of being able to be successful in a field of study.”

Colleges around the country recognize AP classes, which presents a way for students to earn college credits while still in high school. These credits add up – if a student takes one course per year for four years, a student can earn almost a full year of college credits.

“We have some students that start out college almost as juniors,” Dahl said. “For students who get four-year scholarships, they can go on to graduate school and use those scholarships under the four-year model thanks to the credits they’ve earned as a high schooler.”

AP teachers at Armstrong have utilized data from past tests to help students prepare for tests in the future, Dahl said. For example, some tests have free responses. Looking at tests from previous years can also help a teacher prepare a student to do better by determining what weaknesses exist in the student’s knowledge of the subject, and focusing on improving those areas.

“We work with students to not overschedule their AP courses,” Dahl said, noting that a handful of students take two or even three AP courses at once. “By that stance, we have more students participating in these courses, which is what we’re looking for. Having more students participate impacts the building in a very positive way.”