Written by Amanda Umphrey
AP Coordinator for Springville High School
Our journey with A+ College Ready started in the fall of 2013 when SHS wrote our first proposal to become part of the program. Although we fell short in our first attempt, my principal and I were bound and determined for SHS to be a part of the A+ College Ready Program. We both knew it was time for a culture change at our school, and that we had many students who would benefit greatly by taking Advanced Placement (AP®) courses.
Thankfully, our second attempt for the 2015-16 school year was successful, and we dove head first into the program. That first year, we were able to offer seven AP courses and had 106 enrollments. Based on the AP enrollments, A+ College Ready (A+CR) set a school goal for us to achieve thirty qualifying scores. I am so proud to be able to write that we surpassed that goal with thirty-four qualifying scores.
Beating that AP benchmark, as set by A+CR, is not the only goal we exceeded in our first year. A+CR Initiative has helped us improve academically across the curriculum.
In the spring of 2016, we administered the ACT ASPIRE test for the first time. Our students completely astounded us with their achievement. They exceeded the other students in our district in every category; they exceeded the state average in every category; and exceeded the national average in every category except writing, which we only missed by 3%. Those scores show the big picture in depicting our overall student achievement.
Not only did AP teachers get training and extra classroom resources, but the teachers of students in the lower grades also received support. The A+CR Initiative enabled several core teachers in the lower grade levels to attend course specific training which equipped many of our core teachers with the tools needed to reach ALL of our students, not just the advanced ones.
While we had much success during the first year in the A+CR Initiative, I am going to be extremely honest here: Building an AP program is not an easy task. At the beginning, like in any situation requiring change, there was both apprehensiveness and excitement. These kinds of initiatives do not happen over night. Teacher “buy in” was vital to the success of establishing the program. Without the work and dedication of our AP teachers, none of the success we have achieved would have been possible. These teachers have sacrificed much personal time and resources to help their students succeed. They have spent weeks at a time during the summer months – when teachers are supposedly “off” – preparing themselves to face the challenges of teaching an AP course by attending course specific trainings. All of our teachers are to be commended for the sacrifices and commitments they have made towards our student success.
Two of our teachers especially deserve recognition: Mr. Lance Higdon and Mrs. Nena Rich. Mr. Higdon, in his first year of teaching an AP course, had only five Calculus AB students take his class, but ALL five passed the AP exam – two of them made a perfect score! Twenty-eight students enrolled in Mrs. Rich’s AP English Language and Composition course, and in her first year half of her class made a qualifying score on the AP English Language and Composition exam. These two teachers are examples of the fine educators we have at Springville High School. We are very proud of all of our AP teachers.
The students who took AP courses during that first year came from various educational backgrounds and ethnic groups. We had several students to overcome great personal difficulties including health problems, loss of family members, and financial hardships, and still managed to maintain good grades and qualify on AP exams. Some of these students are going to be the first in their families to go to college. We are extremely proud for our students at SHS! The only reason we set out on this journey is for our students.
Moving into the 2016-17 school year, we were able to expand our AP Program by adding two more courses: AP Government and AP Computer Science Principles. In addition to the two new courses, we almost doubled our AP enrollment to 195. We are so thrilled with the growth our program experienced this second year, and we are looking towards the future for more avenues to expand. Preparations have already been made to add AP U. S. History for the 2017-18 school year, as well as “Laying the Foundation” courses for 9th grade World History and 10th grade U. S. History.
A+ College Ready’s impact on our school has been tremendous. Our school culture is changing for the better with the spotlight shining brightly on academics. We are now on track, more than ever before, to successfully equip our students to be college and career ready. The training SHS teachers have received is irreplaceable and is making an impact across the curriculum. Without A+ College Ready, there would not be an Advanced Placement Program at Springville High School.