Carson High program gets students on track for college
As a senior at Carson High School, Richard Long is taking advanced-placement courses in calculus, literature and government, which means he will likely get college credit for those classes.
“We can get the same education we would get at college for a fraction of the price,” said Long, 17. “Once we get to college, it’s going to shorten the amount of time we have to be there and the money we spend.”
That’s one of the main benefits of offering those courses, said Jason Macy, who teaches AP literature and English.
“The purpose is to give them an advanced experience so they can be successful in college,” he said. “Students who graduate from Carson High School can go into college as sophomores.”
The program goes as far back as the 1980s. Classes must conform with national university standards and students are tested on their skills at the end of the year.
Students must score at least a 3 on a 5-point scale to be eligible for college credit. Ultimately, however, it is at the discretion of the college whether to accept the credits.
Of the Carson High School seniors enrolled in advanced-placement English classes last year, 80 percent of them qualified for college credit. That’s 30 percent higher than the state average and 20 percent higher than the global norm.
Curtis Kortemeier, AP chemistry teacher, is not surprised by that statistic.
“It’s to the kids’ credit, but it’s nice to know our environment here can support excellence,” he said. “We’ve had 11 National Merit Scholarship finalists at our school in the last two years. For a school this size, that’s really disproportionate.”
While most advanced-placement classes are self-contained, Mike Malley only has five or six students who qualified for his AP studio art class. So those students are mixed in with his advanced art class, which is a benefit to everyone, he said.
“It sets a higher bar,” he said. “It creates an environment where students who are highly motivated challenge the students around them.”
That’s why Kenzie Tillitt, 18, said she chose to take two advanced-placement courses this year.
“I want to be surrounded by the kids who have the same values and goals that I do,” she said. “I want to be around people who want to go to college and want to make something better of themselves. They’re not at school only because they have to be there.”
Students are selected to participate based on performance on standardized tests, grades in previous classes – usually honors classes – and teacher recommendations.
Sometimes, those are already determined by the time a student leaves sixth grade. While that is an effective way of challenging top students, it also can ignore students who bloom late academically, said Jenny Chandler, AP government teacher.
She said they are working to rectify that, and to expand the program to include more students.
“You try to look for kids who are not achieving their full potential,” Chandler said. “We don’t want to exclude a kid who excels in one particular area.”
In addition to increasing the number of students involved, teachers and administrators would also like to see more subjects offered.
“It allows students to go into a class that will challenge them in a subject they’re passionate about,” said Brenna Bell, an AP language teacher.
Already, Emily Thornburg, AP calculus teacher, extended her program to allow students to earn the equivalent of two college-level courses while still in high school.
The advanced-placement courses are differentiated from the regular classes by their rigor, Macy said.
“It’s the level of thought,” he explained. “We’re no longer looking at proficiency of skills, we’re looking at mastery of analysis.”
Krista Stocke, 17, appreciates the increased demand.
“I know there’s a purpose why we’re doing it,” she said. “When we get to college we’ll be more prepared.”